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Centre County moves polls from senior living centers

BELLEFONTE — The Oaks at Pleasant Gap has been the official polling place for Centre County precinct No. 87, Spring Township Southwest, for several years.

That will change this year.

This week, two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at The Oaks. According to Centre County’s Director of Elections, Joyce McKinley, some Election Day venues will be forced to change due to the pandemic.

The Oaks, she said, will not be used as a polling place.

“Absolutely not,” McKinley said. “But we’ve known for several weeks that we wouldn’t be able to use those facilities.”

The venue change has nothing to do with the two cases of COVID-19 at The Oaks. In fact, McKinley said that no senior living facilities will be used for the primary election.

“We know they will be relocated,” McKinley said.

In addition to The Oaks, Centre County uses Elmcroft of State College for the Ferguson Township North 48 precinct and Foxdale Village’s Community Room for the State College South 20 precinct.

She said that the county has not determined the new sites to replace those polling places.

At this week’s commissioners’ meeting, commissioner Steve Dershem hinted at some venue changes.

“One of challenges we have is that some of the polling places are going to have to change as we move forward. Some of the places that traditionally provided us accommodations are no longer appropriate. We are going to have to find new locations as we move forward,” Dershem said.

McKinley said that the while the county has plans to consolidate polling locations, new sites have not been determined.

Election Day was postponed from Tuesday, April 28 to Tuesday, June 2 by the Commonwealth. McKinley said that Centre County voters have the option of voting by mail if they do not want to go to their precinct’s polling place.

The vote by mail option has been a success thus far, she said.

“We have upwards of 10,000 participating,” McKinley said of the mail-in option.

To request a ballot, visit www.centrecountypa.gov.

The county is also looking for poll workers. According to Dershem, the pandemic has taken a toll on the numbers of volunteer poll workers.

“One of the challenges that presented itself through this COVID-19 conversation is that we used a lot of Bellefonte High School students to cover some of the precincts particularly in the Centre Region. We are not going to have them available for staffing. We are going through and looking at what truly is the need. I would say it’s probably going to be in (the) dozens,” Dershem said.

Dershem said that many of the poll workers will return, but more are needed.

“There’s a lot of people who have been doing this for years who are very dedicated and very strong in their will to proceed. But we are also probably going to need dozens to backfill some of the other positions,” Dershem said.

Those interested in working the polls should call (814) 355-6703 for more information.

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