UPPER DARBY — A last-minute change in an Upper Darby polling place is not sitting well with Democrats who call the move an acting of voter suppression.
Voters of Upper Darby precinct 2-1 have normally voted at a township-owned shed at Penn Pines Park on Providence Road. The County Board of Elections this week approved a site behind the Penn Pines Shopping Center on Thorndale Road to be the new polling place. Precinct 2-1 represents the Penn Pines section of the township that runs along Springfield and Providence roads bordered by Aldan, Yeadon, Lansdowne and Darby.
The election board may change a polling place for emergency circumstances, but Upper Darby Democratic Party Chair Heather Boyd said this longstanding issue of moving the poll out of the park is not now an emergency.
“The reason is questionable. This is skeptical, but I know it’s to suppress the vote,” she said.
Voting information was sent out to voters affected by the change, but the “non-descript white envelopes” that were sent in the mail, Boyd feels, will be discarded without anyone taking notice of the important contents inside.
“People aren’t going to know until they get down to the old polling place,” said Boyd.
According to county Solicitor Michael Maddren, the election bureau has been looking to make the move for a long time. He and Upper Darby Republican Committee Chair Paul McNichol said that the Penn Pines Park polling place was not an acceptable structure for voters since it was a “damp shed” not accessible for all voters and was a “dangerous safety problem for years.”
“The new polling place is in a heated building, has handicapped accessibility and is walkable for far more voters living in the precinct,” said McNichol. “Most importantly, the safety issues have been resolved which, at one time, was the goal of Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Boyd did agree that this has been a concern of hers, even talking to Mayor Tom Micozzie, last year about wanting to change that polling place.
“We’ve agreed to change it for a long time. I talked to Micozzie over a year ago about it,” she said. “I wanted time well in advance before the election. It’s one of the largest turnout polls in the township and it gets changed a week before the election.”
Maddren called the suppression accusation comical because, “it is voter accommodation” that was being addressed by the bureau.
Four polling places were changed in Upper Darby for next week’s election including precincts 3-3, 3-5 and 4-4. Boyd did not take as much concern with those locations (since most were changing from private organizations or homeowners through no fault of the township’s) as she did 2-1, which has a strong Democratic turnout in an area with a number of contentious races for that precinct.
Republican Lisa Faraglia represents the entire 2nd District on township council and is being challenged for re-election by Democrat Matt Silva. Republican Mayor Micozzie, who represented the second district on council for 20 years, is seeking a third and final mayoral term against Democrat Barbarann Keffer. Micozzie’s sister, Kelly Micozzie-Aguirre, is running for another term to serve as a magisterial district judge that represents the 2-1 precinct and the boroughs of Aldan and Clifton Heights.
The townhip’s second district includes the communities of Penn Pines, Primos, Secane and Westbrook Park.
For the most up to date polling place information visit www.pavoterservices.pa.gov.