Luzerne County Election Director Marisa Crispell said she is closely monitoring a court-ordered congressional redistricting plan’s impact on the May 15 primary.
While other primary contenders can start circulating their nomination petitions Tuesday, the date for U.S. House of Representatives to begin seeking nomination signatures has been pushed back to Feb. 27 in Pennsylvania because the new jurisdictions for those seats are not finalized.
The state Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map Jan. 22, a victory for Democrats and other critics who asserted the 18 districts were unconstitutionally drawn to benefit Republicans.
The extended congressional petition deadlines will shrink the time for counties to prepare ballots, Crispell said.
Congressional petitions are now due March 20 instead of March 6. Objections to congressional petitions can be filed until March 27, which could cause further delays if challenges must be adjudicated, Crispell said.
Some county officials also have been questioning if the new congressional districts can be carved out and implemented in time for the primary.
County Manager C. David Pedri said a requirement to hold a special congressional election at a later date would cost the county approximately $230,000.
A special election would force the county to set up and deliver voting machines, rent and staff polling places, print absentee ballots and incur other expenses, said David Parsnik, the county’s administrative services division head. The administration would have to request a transfer from the county reserve to cover such an unbudgeted expense.
Crispell said the state has not broached any possibility of a special election.
“Hopefully, it won’t come to that,” Crispell said. “We have been assured it must be done on time.”
The Supreme Court gave state legislators until Friday to recommend a new map, and Gov. Tom Wolf has until Feb. 15 to endorse or reject their proposal.
If an acceptable plan is not submitted, the Supreme Court plans to adopt its own new boundary lines by Feb. 19 with the help of an expert, according to published reports.
The only local-level race on the county’s May 15 ballot is for county Democratic committee seats, Crispell said.
The other contests, according to the county election page at www.luzernecounty.org: U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, state senators and representatives, and Democratic and Republican state committee members.
Crispell posted a notice about the congressional deadline changes on the county site with a link to the Department of State, which will be handling decisions about the petitions in coming weeks.
Along with setting the new congressional petition schedule, the state advised congressional candidates to check the state site frequently for updated information.
Crispell cautioned congressional candidates there may be a state delay updating records needed to generate lists of voters who fall within the new districts. Candidates often rely on these “street lists” for campaigning, but Crispell said her office may only have access to lists based on current boundaries.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.