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York County looks to move polling places out of senior centers

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

York County is looking to relocate polling places from senior centers before the June 2 primary to protect older residents from exposure to the novel coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.

York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler made the announcement during a COVID-19 webinar with Kevin Schreiber, president of the York County Economic Alliance, and Dr. Matt Howie, York City's medical director and York County's chief health strategist.

There are seven polling places at senior centers and assisted living facilities in York County, according to the most recent listing on the county website.

Finding new locations could be much easier thanks to emergency legislation signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last month to delay the primary, originally scheduled for April 28, and loosen some requirements for poll workers and polling locations.

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"Usually, when counties want to consolidate polling places, they need to gain court permission to do so," said Kathy Boockvar, secretary of the commonwealth, in a webinar Wednesday.

The state General Assembly temporarily waived that requirement for the primary, she said, meaning counties can now use one polling place, if it's large enough, for more than one voting precinct.

The legislation also temporarily eased the requirement that poll workers must live in the precinct where they're working, to help counties recruit enough people to work the election.

A special election is held to replace former state Senator Mike Folmer, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Under normal circumstances, counties are prohibited from having polling places at social halls, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and fraternal organization lodges, because they sometimes serve alcohol.

"This legislation, Act 12 of 2020, changes that, so that those locations, which are often really good choices if they have large accommodating facilities, can now be used by the county," Boockvar said.

Another option for voters who want to avoid exposure to the virus is to vote by mail.

As of Thursday, York County had received more than 9,300 requests for mail-in ballots, officials said.

Boockvar and the governor are encouraging all voters to apply for mail-in ballots to reduce the number of people out and about on June 2.

"Apply now, and as soon as you get your ballot, send it in ... we don’t want to have it get caught up in the mail," Boockvar said.

Applications for mail-in ballots can be submitted online at VotesPA.com until May 26. Ballots must be returned to the county elections office by 8 p.m. June 2, when the polls close.

Pennsylvania is one of 15 states to postpone its primary in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As of Thursday, there were 7,016 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, and 90 deaths have been attributed to the disease, including one in York County.

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