NEW CASTLE —
Three years ago, Lawrence County officials consolidated election precincts to reflect population changes.
Most of the consolidation occurred in New Castle, which has experienced significant population loss over several decades. Other precincts were consolidated in Ellwood City and New Beaver.
Overall, 106 precincts in the county were cut to 79. In the city, 41 precincts were reduced to 18.
Now, county officials are looking to consolidate and even add some more districts, primarily in eight townships.
When the new maps are finalized, the county will register a net loss of four precincts, bringing the total to 75.
But the redistricting must go through several steps before it becomes official.
The county elections office, which is redrawing the maps, will present the recommendation to a committee made up of county assessor J.R. Hardester, planning director Amy McKinney, Allen Miller of the planning office, attorney Jack Seltzer and elections director Ed Allison.
If the committee gives its approval, the recommendation will go to the county Board of Elections. It will then have to be approved by the county common pleas court and finally by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Township supervisors and the Republican and Democratic chairmen will be informed about the process, Allison said.
The goal, he said, is to have the new maps in effect for the May 2014 primary election.
The new maps will try to reflect as much as possible state election code requirements for precinct size. Allison said the state election code requires precincts to have no less than 300 voters and no more than 1,200 voters. Plus, every municipality is guaranteed at least one polling site regardless of population.
Scott Township, for example, has only one precinct, but it’s one of the county’s largest — 1,622 registered voters as of the May primary. The plan is to split the precinct and, therefore, end up with two districts in the township.
Shenango and Neshannock townships would also gain one precinct apiece under the plan.
North Beaver and Wayne townships would lose two precincts apiece and Mahoning and Slippery Rock townships would lose one apiece.
New Castle would also lose one precinct through the consolidation of the two districts in the Sixth Ward on the city’s West Side. Even with the consolidation, the new district will have less than 800 voters.