Voting district consolidation being explored

The Lycoming County Board of Elections approved a proposal from BonData Thursday, allowing the company to draw up maps that consolidate and realign voting districts in Clinton Township and the City of Williamsport at a cost of $6,000.

The drawings will be preliminary. Should the proposed maps appeal to the county, the Board of Elections would vote to approve them and then the courts also would have to approve changing the maps by court order or petition, said Forrest Lehman, director of elections and registration.

Decreasing the number of polling places will save the county money in the face of a state mandate to buy all new polling machines, he said.

An early estimate from BonData shows Clinton Township could downsize from two polling locations to one and the City of Williamsport, which has 17 wards, could shrink to 13, Lehman said.

At about $10,000 per new polling machine, downsizing by five polling places could save the county about $50,000, Lehman concluded. There currently are 86 polling districts in the county.

“This will save the county money — both in the short term and in the long term,” Lehman said.

Acting quickly is in the county’s best interests in order to beat the state’s mandate, Lehman said.

The county must contract with a vendor for the new voting systems by the end of 2019.

“The state would prefer that the new voting system be used in November of 2019,” he said, “but the requirement is that it be in place in April of 2020 for the presidential primary.”

Because the city’s elected officials are not elected based on wards, but instead on an at-large basis, consolidating wards will not affect who can vote for whom, Lehman said.

Though a specific timeline isn’t available, Lehman said it’s likely BonData will have the drawings in by the end of the year by using current census data. The company has worked with many of Pennsylvania’s counties on similar projects already, Lehman said.

“We’re trying to deliver better elections to people, and I think this is the way to do it,” he said.