A few onlookers attending the unofficial vote count late Tuesday in Luzerne County questioned whether voters should have had an option to vote straight party for independent candidates. The straight-party option may have helped independent candidate Rick Williams retain a seat on county council. Williams is 79 votes ahead of Republican Sue Rossi for the fifth and final winning slot in the council election, according to the latest unofficial tally on the county website. The unofficial count had 3,861 straight-party ballots for Republicans, 5,956 for Democrats, 758 for independents and eight for non-partisan. Williams is ahead of Rossi 17,226 to 17,147, and the official count is scheduled to start Friday. County Councilman Stephen J. Urban, a Republican, claimed the straight-party option should only be offered to official parties. Bob Caruso, a Democratic committeeman from Wilkes-Barre Township, also objected to straight-party voting for independents.
Michael Butera, solicitor for the county election board, said he was not aware of any legal requirement to prevent the county from having a straight-party option for independents. “Why should they be treated differently?” Butera asked.
A straight party vote is essentially a short cut that gives votes to all candidates of a single party listed on a voter’s ballot and no votes to candidates in other parties. Voters who voted straight party for independents still could have voted for Willams and no other county council candidates without the straight-party option.
Rossi said Wednesday she had not heard about the dispute over the straight-party option for independents. She added she did not have any plans to challenge the election results.