Consolidation of Northumberland County voting sites is postponed
SUNBURY - After hearing complaints from political candidates and other citizens about their decision to consolidate 21 voting precincts into 10 in four communities in the eastern end of the county, Northumberland County commissioners plan to postpone the move this year, even though it would have saved the county $24,000.
The commissioners will hold a special election board meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday to rescind Tuesday's resolution to authorize Alisha Herb, chief registrar of the county board of elections office, to petition the Court of Common Pleas to consolidate precincts in Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township, Shamokin and Zerbe Township.
Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch approved the resolution. Commissioner Stephen Bridy opposed it because he believes too many of the affected precincts are located in the Mount Carmel area.
The consolidations were expected to take effect for the May 21 primary election.
On Thursday, all three commissioners said they have agreed to delay the consolidations until next year, when possibly 29 precincts will be consolidated for an overall savings of approximately $30,000.
Currently, there are 94 voting precincts in the county.
"We felt it was best to hold off on the consolidations until next year because we got complaints that the decision was made too close to the primary election," Bridy said. "As I said before, I don't think it's right that the east end of the county bears the brunt of the consolidations. We plan on consolidating up to eight more precincts in other parts of the county, including several in Sunbury, to save even more money."
"I received some complaints from candidates and other citizens who asked why we were consolidating voting precincts so close to the primary election," Clausi said. "We talked it over and decided some people have a legitimate argument about the change being made close to the election."
Bridy and Clausi pointed out that some registered voters don't get newspapers that list the consolidations, which could result in people showing up at the wrong polling stations on election day.
Shoch agreed with his fellow commissioners about postponing the consolidations to give voters more time to become aware of the changes.
"I understand the rationale behind it," Shoch said. "Posting notification of the proposed consolidations for next year at the polls this year will help create a smooth transition for the changes next year."
On Tuesday, Herb said the move to consolidate precincts would save the county $12,000 per election or $24,000 per year in poll workers' salaries, rent, paperwork and supplies.
Herb said the primary reason for the consolidations is the low number of voters in each of the precincts. She said residents would not have to travel much farther to vote in their new precincts.
The resolution called for nine voting precincts to be consolidated into four in Mount Carmel, four precincts to be consolidated into two in Mount Carmel Township, six precincts to be consolidated into three in Shamokin, and two precincts in Zerbe Township to be reduced to one.
In addition to the election board session Wednesday, a special salary board meeting will be held.