I. In Focus This Week
Polling Place Profile
Hundred- year old Simpson Voting House in Derry Township, Pa.
Editor’s Note: Beginning this week, electionlineWeekly will take an occasional look at unique polling places throughout the country. Can you see Russia from your polling place? Does your polling place share space with cake mixes and frozen dinners? If you’ve got a unique location for a polling place, please let us know!
For nearly one hundred years 566 residents of Derry Township, Pa. cast their ballots in a one-story, one-room cabin known as the Simpson Voting House.
The Simpson Voting House was built in 1890 and was specifically designed to serve as a polling location for rural Derry Township residents.
Through the years elections officials would bring in voting equipment for the elections — which got a bit more challenging as the years passed and voting technology progressed.
Unfortunately, even with volunteer efforts to paint and clean it up, time began to wear on the Simpson Voting House and the Westmoreland County Election Bureau decided in 2004 to no longer use the voting house as a polling place.
But that didn’t stop folks from the Derry Area Historical Society from dreaming of and planning for a day when the voting house could be used as a polling place again.
"It is the only county-owned voting house still in existence, so it is a gem," Bob Reintgen, a member of the Historical Society told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2010.
In an effort to save the Simpson Voting House, in 2010 the county moved the voting house two miles to county-owned property — it had previously been located on private land.
However, those efforts to save the Simpson Voting House hit a roadblock earlier this year when the Westmoreland County Commission withdrew $15,000 in funding to complete renovations that began in 2009. The county has already spent $15,400 on moving the voting house and renovating it.
"The goal is to restore it and have it as a voting house, but there are steps that you need to take before it occurs," County Commissioner Chuck Anderson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In addition to issues with voting house itself, commissioners also cited concerns with the access to accessible parking, and water and restrooms.
"As far as I'm concerned, there is no chance for this election," Jim Montini, director of the election bureau told the paper. "Our goal is to get people into the polling places and get them voting."
County commissioners and members of the Historical society have not given up hope yet though. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, a state inspector will be called out to inspect the building before the final determination will be made if the building can ever be used again for voting beyond 2012.
“We figured it was worth a shot. Lobbying will now have to be done by the Simpson voting district residents themselves,” Patrick Showalter, Derry Area Historical Society president told the Tribune.
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