Centre County Citizens Attempt a Recount of the November 2016 Election

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend, citizens from around Centre County, PA joined together to call for a full manual recount of the Presidential and US Senate races within their individual voting precincts.

In Pennsylvania, there are three ways that a recount of the votes can be held.  The first type occurs when the top two candidates total vote count is within a half percent of each other.  This was not the case in either the presidential race or the US Senate race.

The second way allows either a candidate or registered voters to file a recount petition with the courts.  On Monday, November 28,  Jill Stein—Green Party Candidate for President—filed a petition in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court to hold a full statewide recount.  The hearing before the Court is scheduled for 10 am, Monday, December 5.  According to PennLive.com,  Stein’s petition and her lawyer, Lawrence Otter, contend that

“[A] recount is needed because of what he called a “discontinuity” between pre-election public opinion polls and the actual outcome. Otter also cited problems with the state electronic voting system and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The third way allows for a citizen-initiated recount call.  This is what about 100 citizens from throughout Centre County did on Monday, November 29, 2016. Believing that the state elections law allows citizens five business days to petition the County Elections Office to recount their precincts ballots, people from 32 of the 91 precincts in the county filed notarized affidavits asking for a manual recount.  The law requires that a minimum of three individuals per precinct file their affidavits within five “days” of the initial completion of the counting of the ballots.

Here’s the list of the 32 precincts that were officially accepted:

  1. #1 Bellefonte North
  2. #3 Bellefonte South
  3. #5 Bellefonte West
  4. #16 State College North
  5. #17 State College North East
  6. #20 State College South 2
  7. #21 State College South East
  8. #23 State College SC 2
  9. #32 State College West 2
  10. #35 Unionville Borough
  11. #37 Benner South
  12. #41 College North
  13. #42 College South
  14. #43 College East
  15. #47 Ferguson North 1
  16. #48 Ferguson North 2
  17. #49 Ferguson Northeast 1
  18. #50 Ferguson Northeast 2
  19. #51 Ferguson East
  20. #52 Ferguson West
  21. #55 Halfmoon
  22. #57 Harris West
  23. #59 Huston
  24. #64 Patton North 1
  25. #65 Patton North 2
  26. #66 Patton South 1
  27. #67 Patton South 2
  28. #68 Patton South 3
  29. #88 Ferguson North 3
  30. #89 Ferguson West Central
  31. #90 Halfmoon East Central
  32. #91 Ferguson North Central

Emily Reddy of WPSU Radio came to the Centre County Elections Office on Monday while the petitions were being filed.  Here is her story.

Then on Tuesday, November 30, the Centre County Board of Elections held their certification hearing. Mary Vollero and I spoke at the hearing on behalf of the voters and for both Concerned Voters of Centre County and Vote PA.  These two organizations are the local and statewide voter-integrity advocacy groups.

There were two sessions held on Tuesday by the Board. The first one lasted a little over a half an hour.  Mary spoke first, and I spoke second.  My initial comments during the first session were not videotaped.  But the Centre Daily Times did quote part of my remarks:

“We have a country right now that is up in arms, and we are fighting with each other,” Tosti-Vasey said. “We need to make sure that people respect the elections as they occurred and doing a recount will help in making sure that here in Pennsylvania we understand what happened.”

The Board of Elections agreed that if the petitioners filed their affidavits in a timely fashion, then they had no choice but to halt the certification of the votes and hold a recount. Timely filing, according to the law is within five days after the end of the count.  The decision hinged on what the word “day” in the election law means.  The petitioners had understood from their lawyer that “day” meant business days.  The board’s attorney said it meant consecutive, calendar days.

The count was finalized on November 17.  If you use calendar days, the last day to file was on November 22. Using the petitioners’ definition of “day,” the final day to file was on Monday, November 28 since there were 4 weekend days and the two-day Thanksgiving holiday days intervening.

Listen to what was said.

So when the board realized there were differing legal opinions on the meaning of “day,” they recessed for two hours to have a further discussion with their solicitor.  When they came back, we got the bad news.

Their solicitor recommended that they use the calendar day definition and certify the election. Which they unanimously did.

After they had voted to certify the election, I questioned the count in my particular precinct. I noted that a provisional ballot was counted without the board verifying that this ballot was received from a registered voter.  The Board said I had a legitimate complaint and suggested that I take the issue to the county’s Court of Common Pleas.

After the meeting had ended, we were asked what we would do.  Mary and I said we need to weigh our options. So…

Stay tuned!

Text of proclamation: The County of Centre Proclamation: NUMBER 35 OF 2016 WHEREAS, for the past several years the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness have sponsored National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week; and WHEREAS, the purpose of this week, is to educate the public about the many reasons people are hungry and homeless including the shortage of affordable housing, housing discrimination especially towards people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and single parents, the need to economic investment in rural communities and the lack of cost of living increases to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and WHEREAS, there are many organizations committed to sheltering, and providing supportive services; and WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women's core values is economic justice which includes services for residents and programs to reduce hunger and homelessness; and WHEREAS, the Centre County Commissioners recognize that hunger and homelessness continues to be a serious problem for many individuals and families in Centre County; NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Centre County Board of Commissioners does hereby proclaim November 12-20, 2016 as” National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” in Centre County and encourages all residents to seek out activities and organizations to promote education on these issues. ADOPTED this 15th day of November, 2016 CENTRE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week

This week is National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week. This week “hundreds of colleges, churches, community groups, and service agencies” from around the country gather in each of their communities to highlight the issues of poverty. We focus on the impact of poverty – housing insufficiency, food insufficiency, and homelessness.

This morning,  the Centre County Commissioners presented Ni-Ta-Nee NOW with a proclamation declaring November 12-20, 2016 (slightly longer than one week in our case) as “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”  I accepted the proclamation on behalf of NOW and then spoke in general as to why this is an important issue.

picture of the three Centre County Commissioners presenting the proclamation to Ni-Ta-Nee NOW.

Centre County Commissioners presenting the “National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week” proclamation to Ni-Ta-Nee NOW. L. to R.: Mark Higgins, Michael Pipe, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, and Steve Dershem.

Hunger and homelessness is a problem in our county as well as the rest of the United States for low-income people and women fleeing violence in the home. I spoke about this problem at the public meeting and indicated to the public that we want our community to know that hunger and homelessness is a problem here in Centre County. I also talked about where you can receive services here in the county if you are hungry, homeless, or are at threat of becoming hungry and homeless.

We worked with the Commissioners to create this proclamation. The public meeting will be aired on our local public cable station and printed in at least one local newspaper.

Here is the proclamation:

Text of proclamation: The County of Centre Proclamation: NUMBER 35 OF 2016 WHEREAS, for the past several years the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness have sponsored National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week; and WHEREAS, the purpose of this week, is to educate the public about the many reasons people are hungry and homeless including the shortage of affordable housing, housing discrimination especially towards people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and single parents, the need to economic investment in rural communities and the lack of cost of living increases to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and WHEREAS, there are many organizations committed to sheltering, and providing supportive services; and WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women's core values is economic justice which includes services for residents and programs to reduce hunger and homelessness; and WHEREAS, the Centre County Commissioners recognize that hunger and homelessness continues to be a serious problem for many individuals and families in Centre County; NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Centre County Board of Commissioners does hereby proclaim November 12-20, 2016 as” National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” in Centre County and encourages all residents to seek out activities and organizations to promote education on these issues. ADOPTED this 15th day of November, 2016 CENTRE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Proclamation by Centre County Commissioners declaring Nov. 12-20, 2016 National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week.

And here’s the written text of my thank you to the Commissioners.

I’m Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Vice President – Action of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW. Ni-Ta-Nee NOW is the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Michele Hamilton—our local chapter president and President of Pennsylvania NOW—sends her regrets for being unable to be here this morning.

First of all, thank you, Mike, Mark, and Steve for acknowledging this week on behalf of the county.

We want to thank all the programs that are working to alleviate hunger and homelessness in Centre County. Programs include the various food banks, Meals on Wheels, Out of the Cold, Housing Transitions, the Women’s Resource Center and the Youth Service Bureau.

We also appreciate those working to protect the rights of people seeking permanent housing, especially MidPenn Legal Services.

The National Organization for Women knows and understands that sensitively and appropriately dealing with housing insecurity, food insecurity, and homelessness is necessary to maintain the health, employment, and educational opportunities for all as well as dealing with the safety issues of women and their families who have to or need to flee violence.

So, once again, thank you for acknowledging this week and the need to focus on hunger and homeless throughout the county.

Elections Have Been Certified: I Won!

IT’S OFFICIAL!

Today I received a letter from the Centre County PA Elections Office. This letter was sent to all newly elected and re-elected officials that ran for public office in the 2015 Municipal and County elections.

Here’s the letter:

scan of the official Centre County Office of Elections certification letter

Election Certification Letter

Attached to the letter was a black and white xerox copy of the “Certificate of Election” that will officially be presented to me on Monday evening, January 4, 2016.  At this re-organizational meeting of Council, I will be Continue Reading

Team Tosti-Vasey 2015 General Election Open House

Open House

Mary’s Pink Church

October 25, Sunday, 3:00-5:00

picture of Mary's Pink Art Church

Mary Vollero’s Pink Art Church and Studio located in Unionville, PA. For more information on this art gallery/studio, go to http://MarysPinkChurch.com.

Meet the Candidates:
Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Bellefonte Borough
Michael Pipe, County Commissioner
Mark Higgins, County Commissioner
Amanda McCartneyRegister of Wills

Coffee & cake & tea & cookies

RSVP not needed. Come one, Come all!

LOCATION: Unionville, Centre County, PA
Old 220 and Rattlesnake Pike
GPS: 180 Union St., Julian, PA 16844
Park behind church, near Community Center.
Cross foot bridge. Enter at red door.

For more info about Mary’s Pink Church, go to http://maryspinkchurch.com

If you’d like to let me know you are coming, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/883094305122567/

picture of an empty seat at the table for Dr. Jones

An Empty Seat at the Table: In Memory of W. Terrell Jones

On Tuesday, August 19, I received a forwarded email from PSU Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones:

It is with deep sorrow that I’m writing to inform you that our colleague and friend, Dr. Terrell Jones, Vice Provost for Educational Equity passed away this morning.  Terrell had been on medical leave the last few months.  He will be greatly missed across the University not only for the impact of his contributions to Penn State, but also for simply the wonderful person that he was.  We will share with you the details regarding funeral arrangements as they become available.  Please keep Carla [Roser-Jones] and Terrell’s children in your thoughts and prayers.

This short note brought tears to my eyes and a great sense of loss. W. Terrell Jones was a civil rights advocate par excellence both in and out of work. He brought humor and caring to everything he did.

picture of Terrell Jones & Carla Roser-Jones

W. Terrell Jones (pictured with his wife Carla Roser-Jones). A Civil Rights advocate in and out of work.

I first met Terrell in the early 1990’s when I attended a meeting of the Centre County Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Soon after that, I was appointed to this Council and served with Terrell up until his death. Until March of 2013, Terrell chaired the monthly meeting of the Advisory Council. His passion for low-income students of color, concern for community diversity and acceptance, and a love of knowledge was quite apparent.

He was a teacher, a counselor, a fountain of trivia on people and ethnicities across the country and around the world. And did his work—both paid and unpaid with a sense of humor and dignity. Here’s a sampling of his ability to teach with humor in the classroom; this is one of the many classes on race relations and cultural diversity that he taught over his 35 years of work at the Pennsylvania State University and one year at Lock Haven University.

On Thursday, August 21, I attended the bimonthly meeting of the Inter Agency Task Force on Community Activities and Relations in Harrisburg. According to the PHRC,

The task force is made up of [the] PHRC, the PA Attorney General’s Office and the PA State Police, working in conjunction with other state and federal agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, local government and law enforcement agencies.  The primary function of the group is to quickly and appropriately address civil tension when conflicts occur, and to promote positive community relations among various groups in order to prevent tension.

The meeting was opened at 10:30 am by Tameka Hatcher, Program Analyst for the PHRC. We usually open these meetings by going around the table and introducing ourselves. This morning was slightly different. Tameka held up Terrell’s name plate and announced that he had passed after a four-month battle with cancer. She asked for a moment of silence and then asked Martin Kearney, Investigative Supervisor at the PHRC and me to say a few words about Terrell. We then placed the name plate at the table to honor our missing comrade.

picture of an empty seat at the table for Dr. Jones

An Empty Seat at the Table: In Memory of Dr. W. Terrell Jones

Here’s some of the accomplishments we talked about:

Local Ordinances

Terrell helped organize a community public forum on discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity about 8-9 years ago. Based on the feedback from that forum, the State College Borough decided to review their Fair Housing Ordinance that had passed in 1994 and decided to expand it as well as create an employment anti-discrimination ordinance in 2008. Working with the Centre County Advisory Council, Terrell and I worked with the town council to help craft the new ordinances that now contain the broadest anti-discrimination protections in the state. The employment ordinance includes marital status, familial status, family responsibilities, gender identity, and sexual orientation in addition to the state-level protections found in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The public accommodations and fair housing ordinance includes marital status, familial status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and source of income in addition to the state-level protections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Tension and Hate

Calming down communities when tensions rise due to religious, racial, gender, or LGBTQIA intolerance, vandalism, and/or hate speech was a forte for Terrell. He created trainings on racial equality, worked with groups to figure out how structurally and organically they could improve their communities to be more accepting and tolerant. He did this for the entire Penn State University community at all of the campuses, within Centre County and across the state. Working with Unity groups, the PHRC, and coalitions, he helped bring together people.

Statewide Leadership

At Penn State University

Seen as an expert on race relations and diversity, Terrell was often called upon to lead programs and organizations dealing with these types of issues. When he started his position as Vice Provost of Educational Equity in 1998, he created “A Framework to Foster Diversity.” According to the Centre Daily Times, this document is a regularly updated plan outlining Penn State University’s diversity and equity goals. As part of his leadership in this position, Terrell oversaw many different offices and commissions to achieve his vision of “an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.” These offices and commissions include:

Units and Programs

College Assistance Migrant Program
Educational Opportunity Center (Philadelphia)
Multicultural Resource Center
Office for Disability Services
Office of Veterans Programs
Student Support Services Program
Talent Search
Talent Search York
Upward Bound
Upward Bound Math and Science Program
Upward Bound Migrant

Commissions and Committees

Equal Opportunity Planning Committee
President’s Equity Commissions
Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity
Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity
Commission for Women

And according to the PSU Office of the President, Terrell led other programs and events throughout his tenure at the University: “He served on the University’s Forum on Black Affairs for many years, and was its president from 1986-87. He also was chair of the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee from 1989-96 and Penn State’s Representative for the Global Sullivan Principles from 2000-2005.”

Community Leadership

As I previously stated, Terrell was appointed to and later led the Centre County Advisory Council to the PA Human Relations Commission for over 20 years. We met 10 out of the 12 months of each year and then held a family picnic for members every August. Our meetings brought together members of the community who act as the “eyes and ears” of diversity in the community. We gathered each month to discuss concerns about injustice and joys of acceptance of people of all backgrounds within Centre County.

Both of us also handled the Blue Pages phone hot line answering questions about unfair treatment and potential discrimination.  As appropriate we gave these individuals information on how to contact the PHRC to file a complaint and/or provided on other resources to assist them in resolving their issues.

Over the years, several different representatives from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission would attend these meetings so that we could pass on the news – both good and bad – to help the state monitor issues of inclusion and tension throughout the state.

We also had a good time, always looking forward to Terrell’s “main dish” offerings at our picnics. He fed us with fried turkeys, roasted pork, and tons of catfish over the years – all his own handiwork!

Terrell was also active in his local church – the Jacob Albright-Mary McLeod Bethune United Methodist Church. I understand that he was one of the leaders of this church, having served from 1990 until his death as a member of its Administrative Council. At the funeral, Reverend Kathleen Danley described his leadership by telling about her arrival at the church this past January. She said that members of the church seemed very tense or sad about their former preacher’s departure. Until Terrell arrived. She said with his arrival, the tension left the room and everyone felt better and got to work. Having that kind of presence is rare.

Leadership across the Commonwealth

Terrell also brought his wisdom and expertise to all corners of the Commonwealth. I asked Martin Kearney, the Investigative Supervisor for the Harrisburg Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to put this part of Terrell’s leadership into perspective. Here’s the email he wrote in response:

You asked me about Terrell’s work with PHRC.  I have had the pleasure to have worked with Terrell for nearly a decade when he was Chair of the PHRC Advisory Council for Centre County.  Other colleagues, such as Homer Floyd, Kaaba Brunson, and Ann Van Dyke have known and worked with Dr. Jones for three decades or more.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him and his work.

Essentially, from the state standpoint, Terrell was key in helping make PSU a more welcoming place for persons of all protected classes, particularly but not exclusively students of color, in his career.  He kept the PHRC apprised of these efforts, especially in regard to academic achievement and safe learning environment for these students.  His work in the vineyard has borne fruit, but as we know, more labors need to be made to make education more accessible and affordable for students in need.

Terrell was active with the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education (PBCOHE) [he served as its President from 2008-2010], which attempted to get all universities in the Commonwealth, public as well as private, achieve equal education opportunity for students of color.  Our Commission was very active in this initiative as well and Terrell’s work helped to increase the numbers of students of color going to college and successfully graduate.  He was also key in helping to investigate and resolve tension situations related to race and ethnicity not only at PSU but on other campuses as well.  For instance, he led an investigation in 2007 at Bloomsburg University campus involving allegations of excessive force and misconduct by campus police toward African American students.  He conducted this investigation with skill, transparency and thoroughness, recommending better communication between students and police and cultural competency training for campus police.

Terrell’s presence in Centre County was well known, especially in his and the Advisory Council’s efforts in State College Borough’s consideration and passage of the Fair Housing (1994) and Human Relations Ordinances (in 2008), efforts of which you know so well (since you were so key in both of these), which had expansive protections beyond Commonwealth law for sexual orientation, marital status and family responsibilities.  Through the work of Terrell and the Council, relationships were built, to create a constituency that supported these ordinances.  It is notable that when the Fair Housing Ordinance was passed, there was [a large and very] vocal opposition to it.  The opposition to the expanded Human Relations Ordinance over a decade later was not only much smaller but much less vocal.  It was consciousness raising of our growing notions of equality, led by Terrell and the Council, that helped to foster this change.

Finally, Terrell not only knew issues of diversity and equality, he knew this state very well.  He pored over the bias reports that the Commission created, reported incidents of which he knew, but also added a historical perspective of these incidents for our state and nation.  In my dealings with him, I always walked away having learned something of value, lessons I carry in my work to this day and which our Commission carries on as well.

A place at the table for our Commission’s Inter-Agency Task Force is missing.  While none of us can fill this space that he leaves, his spirit and the knowledge he passed on will continue for decades to come.

The Farewell Tribute

At Terrell’s funeral on Saturday, August 23, the love for Terrell showed throughout the church. It was overflowing with people. The vestry was full. The room across the hall from the vestry was full. And those who couldn’t find seats in either of these rooms went downstairs to the reception hall. Fortunately all of us got to see the service since the church provided video access to the full service. I think the “Affirmation of Faith” affirms Terrell’s life-long passion for equity and justice. In part, here’s what was proclaimed

Affirmation of Faith by Canaan Banana (edited by Rev. Grey)

I believe in an almighty God

Maker of all people of every color and hue,

Who does not rank people according to their color or gender,…

Who provide[s] abundant resources for

Equitable distribution among all people….

[Who] overturns the iron rule of injustice.

From henceforth He shall continue to judge hatred, racism, sexism,

And every manner of dehumanizing exclusiveness and arrogance.

I believe in the properly placed spirit of reconciliation,…

The Power that overcomes the poverty, abject ghetto life,

Abject rural life, drug and alcohol addiction,

women and children abuse, and pimping, prostitution, and pushing in all of their forms.

And I believe in the … Resurrection of personhood

And equalizing justice, and equality…

Amen

 

Terrell, we’ll miss you at the table of equality and justice for all. You will be missed greatly. Rest in peace my friend.

 

Addendum: According to the obituary that appeared in the Centre Daily Times on August 21, the family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Albright-Bethune United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 153, State College, PA 16804 or to the Dr. W. Terrell Jones Scholarship Memorial Fund at the Pennsylvania State University, by visiting www.GIveNow.psu.edu/TerrellJonesMemorial.