By JENNIFER LEARN-ANDES
Thursday, July 22, 2004 Page: 6A
WILKES-BARRE – The Luzerne County Election Board agreed Tuesday to start consolidating voting precincts now so the changes can go in effect for the 2005 Primary.
That way, the county won’t elect unneeded judges-of-elections and inspectors who will be locked into four-year terms, said acting Bureau of Elections Director Leonard Piazza.
Election Board member Todd Vonderheid, who is also a commissioner, agreed, saying he doesn’t want to incur additional expenses for polling places that might be eliminated because of population and voter registration declines.
Some growing areas might also need more polling places.
Piazza suggested a special commission be formed to study the matter.
Board member Stephen A. Urban, also a commissioner, asked Piazza to produce a written timeline.
Officials need to know how many of the 316 polling places are necessary as the county prepares to buy electronic voting machines.
The consolidation hinges on an accurate record of registered voters, which should be created through two different registration checks expected to be underway in August, Piazza said.
The county plans to hire vendors to help check the registration of roughly 40,000 to 50,000 voters either suspected of moving, or who haven’t voted in years.
The vendors will produce and send notices to these voters to find out their status. Voter Services staff will process the information mailed back to the county.
A firm list of long-term polling places is also needed because the federal government has mandated that polling places be accessible to people with disabilities. Some money is available for counties to make such improvements.