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Centre County getting ready for Election Day

TIM WEIGHT/FOR THE EXPRESS Centre County’s new ballot box outside the Willowbank Building is ready for action.

BELLEFONTE — With Election Day just 41 days away, the Centre County Board of Commissioners talked about preparations for Tuesday, Nov. 3 at its weekly meeting on Tuesday.

Chair Michael Pipe said that the wheels are in motion as the county readies for the big day. The first step in the process is the printing of ballots, which has begun, he said.

“Last week, on Thursday, we received the Secretary of State’s certification. Immediately, our staff began to do what’s known as ‘testing.’ They basically finalized the ballot and they shipped it out to our printer,” Pipe explained. “The printer prints on the actual paper, so there are ‘test’ ballots. (They) overnight that to us and our staff runs it through the counters that people will be using on Election Day. If everything works out well, the printer will start printing and the ballots will be out.”

For those who are opting for a mail-in ballot, those will start going out very soon.

“It’s very likely that mid-next week, voters would start to have their ballots being mailed out with receipt later in the week or on the weekend,” Pipe said.

Additionally, the county is going to be adding several sites where voters can drop off their filled-in ballots. The drop boxes will cost the county around $2,200 each. However, Pipe said that the county hopes to have some “good news” in the coming days about those costs.

“We will have some good news to release soon about a grant that we applied for and about how that will be able to offset any taxpayer costs for the drop boxes. We’ll get to that in a day or two just to make sure everything is ironed out,” Pipe said.

Later Tuesday, Pipe Tweeted that the county had received a grant in the amount of $863,828.50.

He said in the Tweet: “This grant will go towards covering the costs for drop boxes, vote-by-mail, early voting, poll worker safety, etc. Very excited and grateful!”

At the present time, the lone dropbox location is the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte.

“On Thursday, we submitted our plan for ballot return processes to the Department of State’s Bureau of Elections and Security Technology. (It’s) pending their approval,” Pipe said.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that he believes the drop boxes will make it easy for Centre County residents to make certain their vote is counted.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for Centre County citizens who eligible to vote. This will make it fairly easy and it will be in secure locations under 24/7 video monitoring in public buildings, for the most part,” Higgins said.

The locations of the additional dropboxes have not been announced.

“We have confidence in this, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania backed us up on that saying that they are legal and we can use the dropboxes. So, we’ll from there. If we need to pivot or we need to make adjustments, we certainly will,” Pipe said.

Pipe also announced that there would be a change to Penn State University’s polling location. In previous years, on-campus voting was held at the Hetzel Union Building, or the HUB. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on-campus voting will shift to the Bryce Jordan Center to allow for social distancing.

“We have an agreement that was just sent over by the university (Monday) that’s going to be finalized hopefully this week. The Board of Elections and commissioners will be taking a look at it. That would essentially move the on-campus voting precincts from the HUB to the Bryce Jordan Center,” Pipe said.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte. The meeting will be televised live on C-NET.

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