CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County’s Board of Election discussed the proposed relocation of the Bigler Township polling place during a special meeting Tuesday.
A group of citizens has petitioned for the polling place to be relocated from the township building to the Madera Fire Co.’s social hall.
In 2007, Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said a petition was received and the board approved the relocation only to reverse its decision later. If possible, he said he wanted to avoid having to do this again.
In regards to the current petition and proposed relocation, he said the board had three letters of opposition, including one signed by all three Bigler Township Supervisors.
Marjorie C. Moore, judge of election, and Sandra Ibberson, inspector of election, cited issues such as poor lighting, not having access to a reliable telephone, etc.
Plus, they said there was neither safe nor adequate handicap parking available, and voters had to get out along a busy road. They said the fire hall was a much better location, especially since its parking was away from the roadway.
Bigler Township Supervisor Chairman Robert Myers said he was only aware of the issues concerning electrical receptacles, lighting, etc.
He said the issue with the receptacles was worked out, and the township was waiting on a grant for all new LED lighting to correct that issue.
Myers said the building was handicap accessible and there was handicap parking at the front of the building. He said the parking lines are a bit faded but will be re-done.
“Everything has just been under construction,” he said. “… There’s nothing that warrants a move … every complaint has been addressed or will be addressed.”
Dawn Graham, election director, said she’s driven by the Bigler Township building, and the poll workers were correct. She said, “The handicap parking is right on the main road,” and these regulations are stricter for elections.
She said the Department of Justice has audited counties and many have failed because of the strictness of the accessibility standards. She said for parking, polling places are required to have a van accessible spot.
Graham said they thought about moving the current van spot off the road, but the sidewalk is in disrepair and there’s a curb right there as well.
She said the fire hall is away from the road, and has a huge gravel parking lot. She said its handicap parking is directly in front of the building, and space will allow for a van spot to be coned off.
“Handicap accessibility is huge,” Graham said, “and I don’t see a way we can adapt to make it work at the township building.” McCracken concurred.
Both Myers and Township Secretary Jeannette Holden said it would be very easy to rectify these issues, with Holden adding that the township deserves the opportunity to be able to bring its handicap parking into compliance.
She said their citizens would like the polling place kept in a “neutral” local government location. “… Just because a bigger, fancier building comes to town, doesn’t mean you should thwart local government.”
McCracken said the board had to decide if the handicap parking was the prevailing issue. Board member Allen Bietz asked what would happen if the DOJ found the polling place wasn’t compliant.
Graham said the county would become responsible for not only correcting the accessibility issue, but also the costs. Myers said this was the first time the issue has been brought to him, and the township is willing to rectify it.
At the conclusion of discussion, the board voted to table action on this matter and grant the township the opportunity to meet handicap accessibility standards for election parking by Aug. 31.
Myers said he’d notify the board when he believed the township was in compliance, and the board could arrange an on-site visit before making its decision at a future meeting.