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  • Michael Plantain

Opinion: Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall...

This opinion piece was submitted by a resident of the community.

Who is the most incompetent and irresponsible of them all? Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure should be asking this question. The talking mirror of political incompetents around the Executive’s castle unfortunately will not be honest about this ongoing election tragedy. If they did, the answer Mr. McClure would get points squarely at his own red-faced angry embarrassing reflection.


For those caught up with Thanksgiving festivities, you may need a recap of this enchanted world called Northampton County Elections. Here’s where the fairytale ends and shocking reality sets in.

Fast forward past the spell-binding enchanted music to the Northampton County Elections Board charade on November 21. Election certification was up for grabs. In an effort to move beyond their self-made mess and create the illusion of validity through the magic word “certification,” the Northampton County Elections Office still stuck with the "glitch" narrative. Over 150 voters attended, representing a small sampling from all corners of the County. Almost all but the most partisan extremists told a different story of reality, not fantasy:

  • voting machines switching votes;

  • poor handling of the "glitch" especially as far as communication to poll judges;

  • shutting down and/or sending voters away in some polling stations;

  • lack of provisionary and emergency ballots;

  • lack of communications from judges of elections/poll workers to voters about issues;

  • lack of available provisional ballots;

  • mishandling of provisional ballots;

  • lack of anonymity, confidentiality and security to the election process;

  • voter intimidation at polls seeking to turn away prospective voters;

  • refusals by election workers to support voters;

  • and other Third World style incompetence, tactics, and tricks.

Despite so many grave concerns, both from a wide swath of the public and Elections Board, Mr. McClure’s henchman County Elections Solicitor Ricky Santee, Esquire, entered the fray. His mandate: put a stop to any nonsense like logic and fairness that could otherwise cast further doubt on Elections and the Executive. He instructed the Board that it had no discretion in the matter and must certify the election, regardless of whatever misgivings they may have. Consider that for a moment – a Board tasked with election integrity has no say in whether the election results are legit, accurate and worthy of certification. The rubber-stamp Board instead must certify the election at the mandate of a lawyer who works for the County Executive. Rather than exercise your proper authority, address these long-standing ignored issues, and stand up to utter incompetence, do as I say, or else!

Thinkers out their in reality-land may ask themselves questions such as: Why in the face of such egregious problems would the Elections Solicitor tell the Elections Board that it must certify the election and that it had no authority in the matter? What is the legal authority for neutering the Election Board? Better yet, why did Attorney Santee fail to tell the Board that by law it must report the election day irregularities to the Northampton County District Attorney for criminal investigation? Is it because he works for and at that direction of the County Executive who is squarely in the crosshairs? Get more popcorn ready, more to come….

Soon after the Elections Board debacle, the fairest-of-them-all Executive’s story changed. This little ‘ole nothing-to-see “glitch” was no longer a minor thing. It became a “failure.” (Queue the thunder and eerie music). But not until someone else seemingly took the fall. Enter the fleeting star of the show, the Queen’s prince, Northampton County Director of Administration Charles Dertinger (No. 2 in line to crown).

On Black Friday, while most of the County still napped off a turkey-filled tryptophan snooze, Mr. Dertinger – after fulfilling his election administrative duties for the boss – dutifully resigned, falling on the sword. Long live chivalry!

The curious may ask, “That’s it? Is that where the story ends?” They sure hope so. But don’t be fooled by the Merlin-the-magician slight-of-hand disappearing the elephant in the room. The incompetent and irresponsible elephant is still there, no matter what they try to hide from plain sight.

All fair-minded voters, regardless of party affiliation (except the most partisan hacks), must agree these long-standing unresolved problems are deeply concerning to election integrity. Yet the County Executive seems unconcerned, at least initially and now even more so with the benefit of cover from Dertinger’s downfall. It’s easier to gaslight than to hold oneself accountable.

But Mr. McClure knows very well that this scandal has legs. It’s all over the national and state news. Litigation is ensuing. Why else would the “glitch” became the “failure?” Why would his number 2 seemingly take the fall? And where will number 2 end up as reward for loyalty to the crown?

The real question is: Who’s failure is it? Mr. McClure would have the residents of Northampton County believe that with the Dertinger downfall, those responsible have been held accountable. Off with a head or two, dare not question the Executive’s infallibility.

Yet that is not enough to assure election integrity. The buck stops with McClure. Therein lies the dilemma in this saga. He will not accept responsibility, seeking to remain in control of the out-of-control Elections Department under his total control. He apparently does not care about the chronic repeated fundamental flaws that rest squarely within his sole authority as County Executive. He simply wants to move along as if nothing happened, time and again.

Speaking of time and time again, look no further back than the 2019 glitch. The same County and ES&S voting machines previously switched votes. Litigation ensued – thankfully so. The Pennsylvania Secretary of State entered into a settlement agreement in August, 2023. Three months ago. Yet those same issues apparently persisted yet again on this Election Day. The thinkers may ask, “Why?”. The outraged many should shout, “HOW!!”

The lawsuit from the 2019 problems and August 2023 settlement (four years in the making) govern the use of ES&S machines across the state. The lawsuit stems from prior certification of ES&S systems and software for use in PA elections, including – you guessed it – Northampton County.

The months-old signed settlement agreement requires the PA Secretary of State to direct each PA County to upgrade the software. Hint: McClure’s Northampton County is one of those ES&S machine using counties subject to the requirements of the settlement agreement.

But the paying member of the audience for this show still does not know if the software in Northampton County was upgraded. Perhaps McClure, staunch defender of ES&S machines, was still trying to get answers from a talking mirror and using the same old flawed software. Better yet, where is the County Executive’s press release sharing this settlement information with the public and what he is going to do about it? Or any communication from his lackey Santee to the Elections Board about these developments? Angry and red-faced from known issues with the software and machines and the need to upgrade the software must not look good in the talking mirror.

The settlement also requires the Secretary of State to provide those counties (including Northampton) using ES&S with conditions for use of the machines. Why hasn’t McClure shared with the public the mandatory conditions designed to correct the problems? Did the County Executive ever implement the conditions? Or make the Elections Board aware of those conditions per the settlement agreement? If not, why were those conditions kept from the Elections Board and the public? Most importantly, why weren’t those conditions put into place to assure the accuracy of this 2023 election?

Voters are already skeptical of so-called election integrity, rightfully so. So why bother doing your job by taking steps to alleviate those concerns? Let them eat cake.

The settlement also requires counties to submit to the Secretary a list of malfunctions reported and the Department to post the malfunctions after election. “Glitches” and “Failures” surely sound like malfunctions. So where are the malfunction reports? From this election, and all prior elections where the machines messed up? Perhaps those are mere details beneath the office of the Executive.

The settlement requires examinations of the machines, notice, public access and video recording. Did those examinations take place for the 2023 election? How were the test results sampled? Why not share those results? Or did the incompetent lackeys in the Northampton Executive’s Land-of-Make-Believe not allow those inspections? Or were the results still so bad that they require an ongoing cover up from the public eye?

Unless and until these issues are addressed by a competent responsible County Executive, the drumbeat of national embarrassment will only increase for the laughing-stock Northampton County. The elected County Executive owes it to our country, its republican form of government, and each and every Northampton County citizen to get this right. There is nothing more fundamental than free and fair elections.

There can still be a fairytale happy ending. But the story will not change until the Northampton County Executive agrees and departs. Moving along as if nothing happened, time and again, is not a strategy. County Council should demand not just accountability and answers, but meaningful improvements. There is urgency with a critical 2024 Presidential Election on the immediate horizon. PA looks to play a more prominent role in the Presidential Primary. Considering the County Executive’s past handling of election integrity, prominence is almost assured in yet another embarrassing fiasco.

A competent County Executive would have already looked into or would now at least immediately look into these problems and find solutions so they do not happen once more, especially before the 2024 Primary. McClure still will not accept responsibility. He has done virtually nothing to address the issues or hold himself or anyone else accountable, and will likely continue to do nothing. His dismissive actions and words show that he does not care about transparency and its importance to election integrity.

A real leader cannot hide behind a self-made crisis and find cover in his fall guys, especially when he is the one elected and tasked to prevent the crisis. A true, well-intentioned County Executive would accept responsibility, ensure transparency and provide meaningful solutions to assure election integrity. Northampton County must demand better from its County Executive. The residents and taxpayers of Northampton County deserve better at this critical moment.

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