Tag Archives: Harrisburg wards

Citing population shifts, Dauphin County urges Harrisburg to adopt new ward, voting maps

The Ward 4 polling station in Harrisburg

A Dauphin County official made a pitch on Tuesday night to change and streamline Harrisburg’s ward map, a plan that would slash the number of wards in the city by two-thirds.

Jerry Feaser, the county’s director of the Bureau of Registration and Elections, briefed City Council on a proposal to cut the number of city wards from 15 to five.

He cited several factors for the proposed change, including population shifts that have created uneven voter distributions in the city and an effort to ensure that polling places are compliant with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I am here to respectfully ask that the city and the Dauphin County Bureau of Registration and Elections work together on a plan to make improvements to the voting districts that comprise the City of Harrisburg,” he said.

Under the county’s plan, cutting the number of wards also would reduce the number of voting precincts in the city, which now stands at 28. Instead, each of the five wards would have five precincts, for a total of 25.

Over four decades, Feaser said, 42 election districts were whittled down to the current 28, as populations kept changing and shifting.

“We have arrived at a situation where some of the district lines just don’t make sense,” he said.

For examples, Feaser cited the fact that busy State Street bisects Ward 8 and that Hall Manor sits in two different wards.

He further said that the five new wards then could be used by the Court of Common Pleas to create new magisterial district judge boundaries.

The current Harrisburg precinct map (left) and Dauphin County’s proposed map (right)

Feaser’s presentation was one step in what could be a drawn-out process.

City Council would need to approve the appointment of a five-member commission, which would firm up a new map that may or may not comport with the county’s current proposal. Both council and the county commissioners then would need to approve the map. Lastly, it would go before voters for their approval.

Feaser emphasized that his plan was just “a starting point.”

“The creation of ward lines is totally within the authority of the city,” he said.

Feaser said that a plan probably would not finalized and ready for a vote by residents until the November 2021 general election. It made sense, he said, to wait for the results of next year’s U.S. census, which could significantly alter the population count and the distribution of residents within the city. Therefore, the first use of the new ward map wouldn’t take place until 2022, at the earliest.

“There really is time to absorb this and think about it,” said city Solicitor Neil Grover.

Even if the ward map isn’t changed, Feaser told council that his office will need to reconsider where some residents cast their votes, as a number current polling stations cannot be made ADA compliant and/or because several buildings may not be available any longer for voting.

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Changing Places: New polling station on tap for some voters in Midtown Harrisburg

The Neighborhood Center on a past Election Day.

If you live in Midtown Harrisburg, you may need to change where you cast your ballot next month.

The Dauphin County Elections Bureau announced today that it has moved voting for the 12th Ward from the Neighborhood Center of the United Methodist Church, located at N. 3rd and Kelker streets, to the Laurel Towers Apartments a few blocks away at 1531 N. 3rd St.

For several years, the Neighborhood Center has served as the polling place for both the 11th and 12th wards, as the building sits at the boundary between the wards. However, according to the county, the bureau needed to make the move after the center changed the configuration of its voting areas.

“In November of 2017, the center, which is situated in the 11th Ward, moved both precincts out of its secured area, where each precinct had use of separate rooms for polling sites, into one meeting room just before entry into the secure portion of the building,” according to a release from Dauphin County. “Due to limited space for both election districts, the Elections Bureau must move one of the election districts to a new site.”

Most of Midtown Harrisburg is divided into wards 5, 6, 7, 11 and 12. Wards 11 and 12 encompass much of the northern parts of Midtown, separated at Kelker Street.

Ward boundaries in Harrisburg

The Elections Bureau today announced other changes to polling areas in Dauphin County. These include:

  • Londonderry Township, 2nd Precinct, moved from the Londonderry Township Building to the Londonderry Fire Co.
  • Lower Paxton Township, 4th Precinct, moved from Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church to American Legion Post 272
  • Lower Paxton Township, 25th Precinct, moved from Sports City to the Village at Lauren Ridge
  • West Hanover Township, 3rd Precinct, moved from West Hanover Elementary School to the Office of MDJ Lowell Witmer

Voters in the new districts will be receiving postcards informing them of the changes, according to the county. A complete list of polling places in Dauphin County is also available by clicking here.

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Burg Blog: Some of Harrisburg

Gloria Martin-Roberts talks to the media last night.

“I want to be mayor of all of Harrisburg.”

So said Gloria Martin-Roberts as she threw her hat into the ring last November, a phrase she repeated, in varying ways, umpteen times over the following months. In fact, you could say it was the theme of her campaign for mayor.

So, did she do that? The numbers say no.

Martin-Roberts did well where everyone expected her to do well—in Uptown and much of Allison Hill. However, she got clobbered in the so-called “river wards,” and that proved to be her Achilles’ heel in the election.

Let’s dig into some data.

Martin-Roberts did best on her home turf (no surprise) in Uptown Harrisburg. In the four precincts of sprawling Ward 10, she tallied 498 votes, nearly one-quarter of her total of 2,048. In contrast, incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse limped in with 314 votes, winning just one small precinct that borders the river. She also did well in wards 7 and 8, industrial and residential areas of northern Allison Hill.

Papenfuse, though, killed it down by the river. He won by more than 100 votes in Ward 4 (northern downtown), and wards 5, 6, 11 and 12 (all of Midtown from Forster to Maclay streets) and Ward 14 (Riverside/Italian Lake). His overwhelming margins in these wards swamped his challengers, proving to be far too much ground for Martin-Roberts to make up.

While, in her concession speech, Martin-Roberts blamed the media and, weirdly, the electorate for her loss, she really can only blame her own campaign’s flawed, Trump-like strategy—digging deep into her base, trying to squeeze every vote from a handful of precincts and wards.

It is certainly fine if, as a candidate, you base your campaign in certain parts of the city or certain demographics, but you can’t stop there. That’s basically what Martin-Roberts did, never really reaching out to voters outside of her core constituency, thus ceding wide swaths of Harrisburg to her opponents.

Her low-energy campaign also did not help, since trying to unseat an incumbent requires months of vigorous, sustained effort. Lastly, she did nothing to court new voters in Harrisburg, too often invoking that tired “us vs. them” attitude that means nothing to newcomers.

Interestingly, challenger Jennie Jenkins seemed to spread out her support best of the five candidates. She only received 506 votes, but they came from all over the place—a little here, a little there.

In the end, Martin-Roberts lost by more than 600 votes to Papenfuse, a substantial margin in the light-turnout election. If she had run to represent all of Harrisburg, as she repeatedly promised, she might have stood a chance. But she didn’t do that. She was basically invisible from Shipoke to Riverside, giving people in the growing, diverse neighborhoods along the river little reason to vote for her.

Author: Lawrance Binda

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