Voter rolls at 15 percent of Westmoreland precincts exceed state recommendations |
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Patrick Varine
A long line of voters wait to cast their ballots, some having stood for nearly an hour, as large crowds turn out to vote at Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church in Murrysville on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Pennsylvania’s election law states that a voting precinct should not contain more than 1,200 voters “except for good cause shown.”

Maury Fey of Murrysville doesn’t see any good cause for assigning more than 3,600 voters each to the Sardis and Newlonsburg precincts.

Fey waited about 45 minutes to vote during the midterms in November, “but I was there early. From 10 or 11 a.m. on, that line was all the way from the church hall entrance down to Tarr Hollow Road.”

By 1:30 p.m. on Election Day, the wait to vote at Newlonsburg was nearly two hours.

“When I looked at the data from the various voting precincts, it was obvious that a lot of people in two of our precincts were disenfranchised from voting because of the very long wait times,” Fey said.

Tom Wubben, chairman for the Murrysville Export Republican Committee, agreed.

“The wait times impede those attempting to exercise their right,” Wubben said. “The problem was compounded by a shortage of volunteers needed to assist in the voting process.”

All seven voting precincts in Murrysville exceed 1,200 people. The smallest, East Murrysville precinct, has 1,425 registered voters.

In North Huntingdon, a third of its 24 precincts exceed 1,200 by 200 or more voters.

In Hempfield, nine out of 28 precincts and countywide 44 of 305 precincts contain at least 1,400 registered voters.

Only Unity Township’s Dennison precinct, with 3,485 registered voters, approaches Sardis and Newlonsburg as the most outsized in the county.

Fey said he plans to petition the Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court to direct the elections bureau to investigate the issue. A petition signed by 20 voters from a particular precinct is enough to kick-start the process, according to state law. The elections bureau would then be required to report back to the court the results of its investigation.

“If the county board shall find that a division, redivision, alteration, formation or consolidation of election districts will promote the convenience of the electors and the public interests, it shall recommend a proper division, redivision, alteration, formation or consolidation,” according to state law.

Because precincts must remain within a municipality, the only option is to redistrict Murrysville, said Beth Lechman, the county’s elections director.

Lechman said her office has spoken to people in Murrysville about the issue and is willing to help if the municipality wants to redistrict.

Fey said a lot of voters initially looked at the large turnout for the 2016 election as an anomaly.

“But the fact that the public is now more energized than ever before, and we had the same thing happen in 2018, says to me this is not an anomaly,” he said. “This is a bipartisan problem, and we ought to attack it on that basis.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via
Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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