And the county board of commissioners approved a temporary relocation of an Indiana Borough polling place — one that typically sees low turnout with the absence of Indiana University of Pennsylvania students after the end of the spring semester. Voters in the borough’s Third Ward, First Precinct, who ordinary cast ballots at Pratt Hall on the campus, will instead vote at Zink Hall on Maple Street.
But in weighing the debate over whether costs could be cut with the combination of other area polling places, Chief Clerk Robin Maryai said the county is more concerned with maintaining social distancing — a COVID-19 pandemic precaution that would be compromised if the numbers of voters would be doubled or worse with the combination of some precincts.
“Combining precincts puts more people in the same polling place, which doesn’t really pass the common sense test, in my opinion,” Maryai said. “Although precincts have been contacted with the agreement to hold the elections on June 2 at the current places.”
The complete list of polling places will be advertised May 23.
Maryai told the commissioners at their semimonthly business session, a virtual meeting held on the online Zoom platform, that the county will purchase electrical envelope-openers and an additional optical scanning machine to assist the opening and counting ballots sent in by mail
The mail-in count will start at 7 a.m. on Election Day, the first moment that processing is permitted, she said.
“I will personally oversee the process and my assistant, (election bureau) chief clerk Melissa Miller, will assist,” Maryai said. “We will have other county personnel who have been trained in the processing and with the machines to assist in counting those ballots.
“I have contacted every judge of elections in the county and they are lined up with their board members to work that day. If there were going to be vacancies, I put the word out and I have a lot of helpers that have volunteered; but obviously, they will be paid for the day.”
The county employees will provide additional training to judges of elections for management of the polling places. Poll workers will be trained in groups of 12 to abide by social distances.
The poll workers will be separated from voters by “sneeze guard” shields at the registration and sign-in tables.
“The Department of State is providing kits with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for the voters and personal kits for the poll workers. There will be floor tape to mark off six-foot spaces.
“We are purchasing pens for every voter to sign the poll book, and they will take that pen with them when they leave.”
Maryai said the regular security measures have been arranged for the primary, and said every voter will vote on paper and one machine will be used to count the ballots in each polling place — not much different from ordinary election routines.
The commissioners also advised that voters who have requested absentee ballots or mail-in ballots should send them back by mail. Otherwise, they would be given provisional ballots if they show up to vote at their usual polling place.
Voters with questions about the county’s policies and procedures are encouraged to contact the commissioners’ office at (724) 465-3805.