8th District vote a go

Even as the COVID-19 outbreak forces the closure of schools and cancellation of events in Pennsylvania, the state’s three special election will be held Tuesday as scheduled.

That includes the 8th District special election in eastern Mercer County and northwestern Butler County, although county officials changed one polling location as a preventative measure, said state Sen. Michele Brooks.

“I was told by the Department of State it was still going to take place,’’ Brooks, R-50, Jamestown, said Friday.

The special election is being held to fill the seat Tedd Nesbit vacated after he was elected in November as a Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge.

Jeff Greenburg, Mercer County director of Voter Registration and Election Bureau, said he had not received Friday of any change in the schedule.

“We are having the special election unless ordered otherwise by the state,’’ Greenburg said.

The election covers 31 of Mercer County’s 90 voting districts in the eastern half of the county and 15 voting districts in Butler County.

Democrat Phil Heasley and Republican Tim Bonner are running for election to fill the last nine months of Nesbit’s term in office.

However, the polling location for Grove City’s 3rd Ward has been moved because of the outbreak. That district’s polling site was at the Quality Life Services, 400 Hillcrest Ave. The center offers skilled nursing and personal care for seniors – a vulnerable population for the virus.

A growing number of senior centers have been restricting visits to curb potential contact with the public to prevent transmission of the virus. Greenburg said changing the polling location is being done “out of an abundance of caution.’’

The new polling location will be at The Grove City Masonic Hall, 1340 W. Main St.

This move, for now, is just for Tuesday’s election, Greenburg said, but his office and senior care home officials will continue to look at whether the county can use the location for the presidential primary election on April 28.

“We appreciate everything Trinity tried to do for us in the last couple of days as they bent over backwards to try to accommodate us,” Greenburg said. “But in the end the experts were unanimous that it would not be prudent to use the facility due to COVID-19 issues that have impacted the state.”

The county contacted both candidates, and Mercer and Butler county Democratic and Republican party leaders.

The county will legally advertise the move and post a legal notice on the doors of Trinity Living Center on Tuesday so residents will know where to vote.

Because the polling location was changed only a few days before the election, it was too late to notify voters by mail.

“This is not something we ever want to occur and it is unprecedented in my 13-plus years to have to move a precinct this close to an election,” Greenburg said. “While we know there will be some inconvenience for our voters, we appreciate their understanding of the difficult circumstances that required this last-minute decision.”

STAFF WRITER Monica Pryts contributed to this story.

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