Luzerne County reviewing election polling place needs

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected] | November 10th, 2016 7:12 pm

While Luzerne County has been pushing to consolidate voting districts to save money, election officials will examine locations with high presidential race turnout to determine if additional districts are warranted, county Election Director Marisa Crispell said Thursday.

The county has 180 voting districts, and voters cast their ballots at 152 buildings because some districts share a polling place.

Voting districts in several municipalities — Pittston, Plymouth, Exeter and Hanover and Plymouth townships — changed in this year’s April primary as part of a redistricting and consolidation to save thousands of dollars on materials, staffing and other overhead. The changes also made voter registration counts more uniform and reduced the number of poll workers who must be trained, Crispell said.

As part of plans to consolidate districts in Black Creek Township next year, election officials will re-examine voter registration and turnout at all districts in the three most recent presidential elections to assess whether growth in any districts has pushed the count of voters too high, she said.

“We may look into splitting certain districts, even though we’re looking at consolidating others,” Crispell said.

Crispell said she heard of reports of some county voters waiting an hour or two to vote Tuesday, but officials must weigh the cost of adding new districts against the benefits of reducing wait times that voters may experience only every four years.

“There were two-hour lines in many counties statewide on Tuesday,” Crispell said.

A total 136,366 ballots were cast in Tuesday’s general, which does not include provisional and military/oversea absentee ballots that will be tallied at an official count Monday.

In comparison, voters cast 138,076 ballots in the 2008 presidential election and 125,619 in the 2012 general, Crispell said.

Crispell said her office also will complete a reassessment of all polling places to ensure they are accessible to the disabled, have ample parking and enough space to fit a sufficient number of voting machines.

“If a polling place is seriously congested or has other issues, I’ll look at other options,” Crispell said. “I’m also open to suggestions from citizens who know these areas.”

Crispell also is seeking cost estimates on electronic voter sign-in books, which would replace paper books with computer tablet versions. The electronic books would allow election workers to search for voters who are not listed in their district to determine if they are registered to vote in another location, eliminating the need for calls to the county election office that increase the wait time for other voters, she said.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.