New congressional maps challenge Luzerne County election office

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Luzerne County Election Director Marisa Crispell said she has been scrambling to verify where Hazle Township District 1 voters fall in a new congressional district map.

That area was split between the 8th and 9th Congressional Districts.

The state data spelling out the new zones contained boundary lines without corresponding addresses, forcing Crispell’s office to turn to the county GIS/mapping department, she told the county election board Wednesday.

Matching voters to addresses is taking longer than planned because the GIS/mapping addresses and street names are current. Some residents are still registered to vote under rural routes and street names that have changed, primarily as part of a 911 push to eliminate duplicate and confusing addresses, she said.

In this process, Crispell said she has identified some who were incorrectly lumped into Hazle Township District 1, including several who reside in Black Creek Township and others who should be voting in Schuylkill County.

When the review is complete, her office will mail postcards to voters indicating whether they are in the 8th or 9th districts. The voters must appear at their usual polling places on primary day May 15, she said. As they sign in, election workers will search a list to determine which ballot should be loaded on the electronic voting screen for each voter, she said.

Crispell plans to launch an addressing project after the May primary in the rest of the county to ensure all voters in the state’s database have addresses corresponding with those in county GIS/mapping.


Crispell also provided an update on election polling place accessibility.

In a November 2015 general election survey, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and an architect from the Department of Justice found many county polling locations contained access barriers for people with disabilities. The county agreed to address the problem in a January 2017 settlement with the federal government.

Under the settlement, the county must relocate inaccessible polling places or use temporary measures such as portable ramps, signs, traffic cones and doorbells to ensure accessibility on voting days.

A county consultant recently completed a survey of all 156 buildings used for elections, and letters will be sent in June to the owners of those with barrier issues, she told the board. Crispell did not have a ready report on the number flagged.

New voting locations will be selected during the summer if building owners are unwilling or unable to make changes, she said.

Meanwhile, the board approved four polling place changes for the May primary in West Pittston and Wyoming boroughs.

Voters in West Pittston’s Ward 3 will switch from the borough garage on Delaware Avenue to the borough building at 555 Exeter Ave. due to a concern about the sidewalk at the garage, officials said.

The new polling place for Wyoming Wards 1, 2 and 3 is the Wyoming Volunteer Hose Co. 2 at 70 Third St. Voters in the first two wards previously cast ballots at the borough building, while those in Ward 3 had voted at the Wyoming Free Library.

Crispell said the library was no longer interested in hosting elections, and sufficient parking was a concern at the borough building. The new space has more parking and a large banquet room, and the $600 election day rent paid by the county for all three wards will benefit the fire department, she said.

Poll books

A proposal to buy or lease 220 electronic poll books also is slated for discussion at the April 10 county council work session, Crispell said.

Replacing paper poll books with electronic versions would allow for printed tickets with party affiliation that must be presented to ballot activators. It would also provide a searchable database of voters and their polling places to speed up processing on Election Day, officials have said.

The system from Election Systems & Software would cost $324,802 to purchase or $75,413 annually to lease for five years, or a total $377,065.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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

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