By Christopher Ward, Point Park News Service:
Twice a year, Elizabeth Pazehoski moves the furniture of her living room to make room for the voters of Allegheny County’s Trafford District 1.
Her house serves as just one of six of the county’s polling places located in a private citizen’s living room or garage. She’s expecting a big crowd on Tuesday – and big appetites.
“In the morning we usually have coffee and doughnuts out for the workers,” Pazehoski said. “For lunch we usually have hoagies, and for dinner we usually have a roast and mash potatoes, along with desserts for after dinner.”
Private residential polling places are common in Philadelphia, but they are rare in and around the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County elections officials said.
Due to the lack of availability for public buildings in certain voting zones, the county has no choice but to hold voting polls at a private residency location, Mark Wolosik, the Allegheny County elections manager, said.
“The election code provides that polling places be located in the actual election district or adjoining district and be held in public buildings wherever possible,” Wolosik said.
Marlo Miller has been holding voting polls in her garage since 1998 for voters who are in the Pittsburgh 20-2 district.
“I’ve always worked the polls and we use to have it at my mom’s house,” Miller said. I don’t have to move a lot in the garage, other than a riding lawn mower that I move outside.”
Miller, who has been volunteering at voting polls for more than three decades is thankful for modern technology voting machines.
“It’s not like what it use to be when they had the machine. We had to mark down all the votes,” Miller said. “But now with the machines, it sort of does that. We just print it out and it adds it up itself.”
Like Pazehoski, Miller will also have food at her house throughout the day for poll workers.
“We usually have everyone pitch in and bring something to eat,” Miller said. “We use to just order stuff out, but we decided that it would be better if everyone just made something.”
Miller says the dishes vary from year-to-year.
“The judge of election usually makes hot sauce, but it changes all the time,” she said. “This election, I think I am going to make potato soup and sloppy joes. Everybody brings something, but they usually don’t say what they are bringing.”
Miller makes it a precedent that the volunteers don’t discuss political preferences while voters are in their presence.
“There are no radios, TVs or newspapers allowed in the polling area,” she said. “We try to keep anything that would influence somebody away.”
Pazeholski says that just 10 of the 47 people registered in her district showed up to vote during the latest primary this past spring, but she expects a big turnout on Nov. 8 for the presidential election.
“I’m sure this one coming up is going to be pretty big,” Pazehoski said. “The people usually tend to always show up in big numbers during a presidential year.”
Pazehoski said she feels like she’s doing her civic duty by hosting the polls.
“I don’t mind it at all. I do it for my country and neighbors,” she said. “It’s a long day, but you get to sit on the couch and watch TV while the day goes on.”