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Franklin County officials say primary should not be delayed

April 23, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County, Pa., officials and local legislators hope to learn this week if the May 21 primary election will go forward as scheduled or if it will be postponed until summer.

Local officials are pushing for a May 21 primary rather than postponing it or holding two elections.

The primary became an issue earlier this month when the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania invalidated the redistricting plan for the state, ordering legislators to come up with a new plan within three weeks.

The court said the 19 congressional districts varied by as much as 19 people, which goes against the "one man, one vote" theory.

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The court's decision has prompted speculation that the primary could be shifted to as late as September or split into two, which would double expenses for counties.

It costs Franklin County nearly $99,000 to hold an election, Commissioner Robert Thomas said.

Chief Deputy Clerk Jean Byers said the county supports the position represented by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania that the state should hold one election, and no later than July.

Any later than that would run into planning for the November general election, Byers said.

The Franklin County Board of Elections has made CCAP and legislators aware of its position.

"It's all we can do. It's in their hands," Byers said. "We are expressing the view that if they have to extend the primary, we want one, not two."

The House and Senate passed new plans last week and are waiting for the court to rule.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, said Monday that he is hopeful there will be a decision this week.

"That would be just enough time," to go ahead with the May primary, he said.

The new plan did not affect Franklin or Fulton counties, but did tinker with some of the boundaries for the 9th congressional District, said State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin.

That could affect campaigns by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and his Republican opponents David Keller and David Bahr, both of Chambersburg.

Punt and Fleagle questioned the court's ruling on the initial plan.

"We were working with census numbers from two years ago that were obsolete two years ago," Punt said. "People move, people die and people are born.

"We were 19 people over out of 12.4 million. It's just absurd."

"I'm not really happy with the federal court jerking us around with the reapportionment plan," Fleagle said. "They waited until the last minute, putting counties in a bind."

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