Decision to merge polls right for county
The Northumberland County Board of Elections, which consists of the three county commissioners, made the right decision in consolidating 37 polling places into 18.
The merger of polling districts is a long time coming. Commissioners were set to make the change earlier this year, but they decided there was not sufficient time to inform voters.
Frankly, the wisdom and logic behind the decision was never in question. The consolidation will reduce annual election expenses by $31,000, and the change will not make it any more difficult for people to get to the polls. Any time elected officials can save money without diminishing the quality of service, the public interest demands that they do so.
The municipalities affected by the change are Mount Carmel Borough, Mount Carmel Township, Coal Township, Zerbe Township and Sunbury. In the vast majority of cases, voters won't have to walk (or drive) any more than a few additional blocks (if that). In townships with smaller populations, some voters have been driving several miles to the polls for many decades. As always, each municipality in Northumberland County retains at least one polling place.
This is not the first time Northumberland County has consolidated its polling sites. The last one, in 1976, reduced the polling places to 94. Next year, there will be only 74. It makes sense to revisit the location of polling places in multi-site communities from time to time to guarantee that resources are distributed where they are actually needed. The fact is, there are not as many voters turning out in some locations as there once was.
The change will not take effect until the primary election in May 2014. That delay is certainly sufficient time to enable voters affected by the consolidation to become educated on the new location. By the time of the general election in 2014, it's likely that all voters will be comfortable with the change.