Historic Voting House may reopen as polling site for May 21 primary
After a nine-year hiatus, the historic Simpson Voting House in Derry Township could return as a polling place in time for the May 21 primary.
And just a week before voters head to the polls, the circa-1890 clapboard structure will be designated as a “Keystone of Democracy” by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
It will be the third polling place given the award — which requires 50 years of consecutive use — in the program started about a year ago by Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele.
“The idea there is to recognize the physical building, the county, the precinct workers and the people who came there to vote,” said Ron Ruman, press secretary for the department.
The county has spent $15,000 and four years working out details of the Simpson Voting House project, which moved the last free-standing polling place in Westmoreland County from its former site near Pittsburgh Raceway Park to county-owned property a mile east on Route 22 for renovations.
Department of State officials met with commissioners and Derry Area Historical Society representatives in December and determined that the Simpson Voting House meets state standards to be a polling site. But before that can happen, the building's parking lot must be paved, a handicapped-accessible railing must be installed and county commissioners must give final approval.
If so, it will be the first time since 2004 that the building is used by about 500 voters in the district, who had been relocated to the New Alexandria Fireman's Club.
The small building, not much bigger than most people's living rooms, was used for 122 consecutive years before closing in 2004, said Evelyn Ruffing of the Derry Area Historical Society.
“The thanks for everything goes to the volunteers,” she said, who donated time to re-establish the voting house once it was moved.
Once Election Bureau officials finalize all the polling place changes to be approved by commissioners, a meeting date will be set to determine the final list of primary voting locations, said county Commissioner Ted Kopas, the minority Democrat on the board.
“It's been a long time coming, but I think it's a unique voting experience for the people in the Simpson district of Derry,” Kopas said. “These are minor things that need to be taken care of, and they will.”
Republican Commissioner Tyler Courtney said he and fellow Republican commission Chairman Chuck Anderson were never against finishing the project, but were concerned with spending an additional $15,000 for repairs when it was uncertain whether the building could be used. Volunteer work has made up for those lost funds.
“Now it's been determined that it's an acceptable voting facility,” Courtney said. “We're excited about the opportunity to use it.”
Anderson said officials take voting very seriously, which is why decisions regarding the Simpson Voting House have been delayed.
“Whether or not it's going to be open for the primary, I can't tell you for sure. We have to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed,” he said. “It's a work in progress and we have to make sure we do it right before opening it up as a polling place.”
Anderson and Kopas both said the final improvements will be completed through a partnership between the county and the township.
County public works officials are seeking estimates for the materials and the township plans to complete the work.
“We'd like to get some partnership in it, so everyone can have pride in it,” Anderson said.
A ceremony to recognize the Keystone of Democracy with Aichele, commissioners and historical society is scheduled for May 16 at the voting house.
“It's a rich history and it speaks to the fact that the people in Derry Township and Westmoreland County shared the secretary's feeling that the polling place is an important part of the election process,” Ruman said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 3 identified in Route 66 crash near Delmont
- Greensburg man charged with assaulting hospital guard
- Westmoreland County gets the word out about drug problem
- Blaze ravages South Huntingdon home
- State grant to aid Excela plans for orthopedic center in Hempfield
- Baggaley school principal seeks volunteers to build playground
- Entrapment, injury reported in Derry Township accident
- Penn Township sues to get blighted property cleaned
- Unity zoning board OKs cellphone tower project
- Mt. Pleasant Relay for Life participants unfazed by rain
- Murrysville police seek help to catch vandals