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BJC Election Office, ‘Above & Beyond’ Support Helping Centre County Prepare For Election Day

As Election Day draws nearer and the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Centre County Elections officials are utilizing new initiatives to help folks get to the polls this fall.

Most notably, the county established a brand new Satellite Elections Office at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center. There, both students and Centre County residents can get registered, apply for mail-in or absentee ballots, and even vote ahead of November 3.

The center largely utilizes the BJC Ticket Office, where a handful of volunteers process forms and ballots behind the glass windows. Everyone’s ballots are kept in a secure “vault” lockbox — the same used for the arena’s tickets and event passes — in the office.

This week, the Satellite Elections Office will open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Thursday, October 22 through Saturday, October 21.

The BJC will also serve as a traditional polling site for applicable voters on Election Day.

Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe feels the expansion to the BJC is giving voters some unique opportunities at a time when many doors appear to be closed due to the pandemic.

“Our audience is sort of the people who still want to have an in-person voting experience but don’t necessarily want to drop their ballot off in the mail,” Pipe said. “They still want to have some semblance of in-person voting.”

Pipe estimated anywhere between 20 and 100 people stroll through the BJC’s Satellite Elections Office each day when it’s open. Voters can schedule early voting appointments ahead of time through the county’s website.

Part of the beauty of the BJC’s new digs, Pipe said, is its expansive concourse, which allows voters to space out and social distance throughout the entire process. Contactless hand sanitizer stations are also distributed throughout the arena.

Pipe and his team quickly realized voters would need to lick a few envelopes during their trips to the office, which would require them to take their mandatory masks off. To solve that problem, one employee suggested keeping sanitized cotton swabs, which could be applied to seals, and wet sponges at each station.

Pipe added finances played a role in choosing the BJC for such an occasion. Thanks to in-kind funding from Penn State, Centre County election officials didn’t need to spend any taxpayer funds to establish the BJC’s Satellite Elections Office. The office’s employees are also receiving payments through a special election grant.

Pipe also cited the arena’s expansive parking capabilities as a major advantage. Voters can park for free in front of the BJC Ticket Office and the Guest and ADA lot near Gate B. Everyone is required to head in through Gate A to use the Satellite Elections Office.

As flashy as the BJC is this election cycle, the arena offers just one of Centre County’s newest initiatives. Pipe believes a combination of increased mail-in voting, dropboxes, and opportunities are helping the county get more civically engaged.

“Rewind to four years ago, you could just vote on Election Day,” Pipe said. “There really wasn’t the universal mail-in [voting], there weren’t drop boxes. In just four short years, a Penn State student who voted in 2016 who’d come to see this…There’s so many different options that you can just pick what you’re comfortable with.”

Across the county, Centre County typically sees about 600 people working the polls on Election Day. This year, Pipe estimates an additional 500 people, including some students, have already signed up to pitch in — so many that Centre County is asking some to come back next year.

Pipe, who’s overseen county elections for years, said residents’ “above and beyond” support is helping Centre County overcome countless obstacles en route to Election Day.

“It’s been really humbling to see the community come out and say we want to get a bunch of opportunities for people to help out and work,” Pipe said. “I’m happy and very, very satisfied with the amount of work they’ve done in such a short amount of time.”

Although Pennsylvania’s voter registration date has passed, residents can request mail-in or absentee ballots through Tuesday, October 27. Pennsylvania’s polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3.

Voters can also access complete lists of official Centre County drop boxes and find their polling locations through the county’s handy online tools.

To learn more about voting early and on Election Day in Centre County, head over to its website.

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