Westmoreland County judge OKs new voting districts in Upper Burrell | TribLIVE.com

Westmoreland County judge OKs new voting districts in Upper Burrell

Mary Ann Thomas

A Westmoreland County judge has approved a new voting redistricting plan for Upper Burrell that more evenly divides the number of voters in the township’s two precincts.

Judge Harry F. Smail Jr. on Tuesday approved the new voter precinct plan that had been submitted by residents as well as township and county election officials.

This year, about 20 Upper Burrell residents filed a lawsuit asserting that one of the township’s two voting districts, Precinct No. 1, had about 1,180 registered voters, which caused long lines on Election Day. The other district, Precinct No. 2, had a little more than 340 registered voters.

The discrepancy became an issue during the 2016 presidential election; both precincts vote at the township building. Voters from Precinct No. 1 saw that they were in a longer voting line than those in Precinct No. 2 and complained to the township supervisors, according to Upper Burrell solicitor Steve Yakopec Jr.

The redistricting will result in the first precinct having 752 voters and the second having 723.

“This change is about the convenience of the electorate who come to vote,” Yakopec said. “Otherwise, people get disgruntled and they don’t come out to vote and they don’t want to wait in a long line.”

Route 780 is the major dividing line between the two voting districts. In order to even them out, the new district lines were moved in the area of Route 780 and Pleasant Valley Road, according to Yakopec and elections bureau Director Beth Lechman.

Voters whose precinct has changed will be notified. The new districts will go into effect for November’s general election.

State guidelines recommend that precincts in Pennsylvania not exceed 1,200 voters.

County officials said 44 of Westmoreland County’s 305 precincts exceed that threshold.

Recommendations for Upper Burrell’s new voting districts were drawn up by Upper Burrell’s judges of election, township Supervisor Michael P. Conley and Township Secretary Melissa Cortileso. Their plan was then modified by the Westmoreland County Election Bureau, according to Yakopec.

The township supervisors had authorized Yakopec to help residents file their case.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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