July 12, 2012

I. In Focus This Week

Polling Place Profile
Hundred- year old Simpson Voting House in Derry Township, Pa.

By M. Mindy Moretti

Editor’s Note: Beginning this week, electionlineWeekly will take an occasional look at unique polling places throughout the country. Can you see Russia from your polling place? Does your polling place share space with cake mixes and frozen dinners? If you’ve got a unique location for a polling place, please let us know!

For nearly one hundred years 566 residents of Derry Township, Pa. cast their ballots in a one-story, one-room cabin known as the Simpson Voting House.

The Simpson Voting House was built in 1890 and was specifically designed to serve as a polling location for rural Derry Township residents.

Through the years elections officials would bring in voting equipment for the elections — which got a bit more challenging as the years passed and voting technology progressed.

Unfortunately, even with volunteer efforts to paint and clean it up, time began to wear on the Simpson Voting House and the Westmoreland County Election Bureau decided in 2004 to no longer use the voting house as a polling place.

But that didn’t stop folks from the Derry Area Historical Society from dreaming of and planning for a day when the voting house could be used as a polling place again.

“It is the only county-owned voting house still in existence, so it is a gem,” Bob Reintgen, a member of the Historical Society told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2010.

In an effort to save the Simpson Voting House, in 2010 the county moved the voting house two miles to county-owned property — it had previously been located on private land.

However, those efforts to save the Simpson Voting House hit a roadblock earlier this year when the Westmoreland County Commission withdrew $15,000 in funding to complete renovations that began in 2009. The county has already spent $15,400 on moving the voting house and renovating it.

“The goal is to restore it and have it as a voting house, but there are steps that you need to take before it occurs,” County Commissioner Chuck Anderson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In addition to issues with voting house itself, commissioners also cited concerns with the access to accessible parking, and water and restrooms.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no chance for this election,” Jim Montini, director of the election bureau told the paper. “Our goal is to get people into the polling places and get them voting.”

County commissioners and members of the Historical society have not given up hope yet though. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, a state inspector will be called out to inspect the building before the final determination will be made if the building can ever be used again for voting beyond 2012.

“We figured it was worth a shot. Lobbying will now have to be done by the Simpson voting district residents themselves,” Patrick Showalter, Derry Area Historical Society president told the Tribune.

II. Election News This Week

  • Using words such as “fiasco” and “catastrophe,” to describe the vote count following the June 26 primary, the New York City Board of Elections met this week to certify the results of the much-maligned election and to discuss what happened. According to The New York Times at the meeting members said they believed that the vote-counting process had been unfairly characterized by the news media. “I think September will be a public-relations nightmare,” Juan Carlos Polanco, a board member from the Bronx said at the meeting. At the heart of the matter is how the ballots are counted. In New York City, poll workers print out paper records from ballot scanner, cut the paper into sections by election district, add the district votes and then provide the totals and the flash drive to a police officer. In all other New York jurisdictions poll workers simply remove the flash drive from the ballot scanners and deliver the drives to a central counting location.
  • Voter ID is now the almost law of the land in New Hampshire after Gov. John Lynch allowed the law to go into effect late last week without his signature. The law still must withstand review by the U.S. Dept. of Justice because New Hampshire must submit election law changes to the department in accordance with the Voting Rights Act.
  • Talk about a glitch! During the recent Texas primary, a computer glitch in Brooks County listed several voters as being 112 years old. According to Solia Cavazos, assistant to the elections administrator, the voters in question registered to vote in the 1970s when birth dates were not required on registration forms. The voters are at the center of a lawsuit filed by Jim Wells and Brooks County District Attorney Armando Barrera alleging voter fraud. Barrera lost the May 29 primary by 19 votes.
  • While much attention is placed on getting young people to register to vote, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mercer County Clerk Chris Horn recently made the effort to get someone else registered — 105-year old Margaret Harris. Harris, who was born 14 years before women had the right to vote has only cast a ballot once in her life in 1928. “Mrs. Harris has been a fixture in her community for nearly a century, and by voting in the upcoming election, she will add to her already impressive legacy for its future,” Grimes told the West Kentucky Star. “I hope her example inspires others to take an active role in elections and shaping the path of our state and nation.”
  • Personnel News: Pat Powers, a long-time member of the South Dakota secretary of state’s office resigned this week. Union County, N.J. Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has been named president of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers. Trumbull, Conn. Democratic Registrar Jane Aiello resigned this week following the completion of redistricting. Also in Trumbull, Assistant Republican Registrar Kathy Miranti was terminated. Former Sedgwick County, Kan. Election Commissioner Bill Gale has been hired to serve as inspector general for Kansas’ Medicaid programs. Gale served on the election commission from 2003 to 2011.
  • In Memoriam: Former Lafourche Parish, La. Registrar of Voters Sterling Diaz died on July 1. He was 87. Diaz served as the parish’s registrar from 1982 till his retirement in 2010. “I was completely impressed by his professionalism,” Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre told Houma Today. “He explained the election process and showed me the boundaries of the precincts. I was struck by the enthusiam, pride and precision with which he represented his office.”

III. Opinion

National News: Voting rights; Voter registration; Voter ID; Voter fraud

Connecticut: Voter fraud

Florida: Write-in candidates, II; Ex-felon voting rights, II; Voter confusion; Indian River County; Hillsborough County

Georgia: Overseas ballots

Massachusetts: Access to voting

Michigan: Voter ID, II; Election integrity

Minnesota: Voter ID, II; Mark Ritchie, II

New York: Vote count, II; NYC Board of elections, II, III, IV

North Carolina: Voter ID veto, II, III

Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI

Tennessee: Voting rights; Voter ID; Polling changes

Texas: Voter ID

Virginia: Poll workers

Washington: Secretary of state race

Wisconsin: Voter fraud, II; Racine recount, II

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IV. Job Openings

electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to mmoretti@electionline.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.