UPDATE: At 8:45 this evening, after taking testimony, hearing argument and reviewing case law and exhibits submitted to him, Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger denied the petition of the county Board of Elections, and the intervening petition of Bensalem resident Elly McNelis, to postpone the special election for the 18th PA House District scheduled for Tuesday, March 17 in Bensalem.
Original story below
DOYLESTOWN >> The Bucks County Board of Elections on Monday, March 16 filed an emergency petition in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas for an injunction to postpone Tuesday’s special election for Bensalem’s seat in the State House.
This is in direct response to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis, which the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labeled a global pandemic.
To this point, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, who has the power to postpone this election in the interest of public safety, has refused to so.
“We were left with no choice but to file suit,” said Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners and chair of the Board of Elections, which also includes Common Pleas Court Judge Brian T. McGuffin and County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. “With the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania declaring a state of emergency and under advisement of our county’s Department of Health, we believe that tomorrow’s special election must be postponed. The risk is too great. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our residents.”
In Bucks County, all schools are closed for two weeks, and all dine-in restaurants and non-essential businesses have been ordered to close by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“It doesn’t make much sense for us to ask residents to practice social distancing and to stay home from work, but then also encourage them to go out to vote in the middle of a public health crisis. This is no time to play games with people’s lives,” Marseglia said.
This special election would be the first in which the county’s new Clear Ballot voting machines would be used. Of the 135 personnel required to conduct the special election, fewer than half have confirmed their availability to work.
Commissioner Marseglia concluded, “It’s the perfect storm. New voting machines, poll workers quitting or calling in sick, and a global pandemic. With the outbreak of COVID-19, we had hoped that Speaker Turzai would have had the good sense to, at the very minimum, move this election concurrent with the April 28 primary, but now we are asking a judge to issue an emergency injunction and protect our citizens.”