MERCER — The state Supreme Court’s decision Monday to throw out Pennsylvania’s congressional district maps won’t have a significant impact on the 2018 election process in Mercer County, said Jeff Greenburg, the county’s director of voter registration and elections, unless it forces a change in the schedule.
“We don’t want the dates to change,” Greenburg said. “That’s when things become problematic.”
Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional district maps were illegally gerrymandered to favor the Republican Party. Democrats outnumber Republicans among the state’s registered voters, but Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is comprised of five Democrats and 13 Republicans.
Greenburg said Thursday during the Mercer County Election Board meeting that the Supreme Court’s decision might have been correct, but its timing — weeks before the Feb. 13 date for circulating candidacy petitions — risks causing problems for this year’s vote.
Until new maps are drawn, or unless the U.S. Supreme Court delays the state court’s order, the state legislature has until Feb. 9 to reconfigure the districts for this year’s congressional elections. Greenburg said even a short delay of a week or so could still allow the May primary to go off on time.
Beyond that, though, the delay would prevent a congressional primary on May 15 and leave state election officials to choose between pushing back the primary or bifurcating — electing all other primaries on May 15, and hold the congressional primaries later.
“Those are both bad for us,” Greenburg said.
The former would cause scheduling problems. Polling sites and poll workers are available on May 15, but he said it’s doubtful that all — locations and people — will be open on any other day.
Bifurcating would be worse. In addition to the scheduling issues, Greenburg said holding a third election in 2018 would increase the department’s costs by almost 50 percent, without any way for his department to control or limit the expense.
Ultimately, though, he said the county department will be taking its marching orders from authorities in Harrisburg.
“We’re going to do what we’re told to do, because we don’t have any choice.”
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