Westmoreland County Building Used for Voting Since 1890s to Become Third 'Keystone of Democracy'

May 16, 2013, 12:04 ET from Pennsylvania Department of State

NEW ALEXANDRIA, Pa., May 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Westmoreland County polling place where votes were first cast in the 1890s was designated today as Pennsylvania's third "Keystone of Democracy.''

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose agency oversees elections, today presented a plaque to the Westmoreland County Commissioners, Derry Township Supervisors, and Derry Area Historical Society, designating the Simpson Voting House in Derry Township as a Keystone of Democracy.

This program, created by Aichele last year, recognizes polling places in use for at least 50 consecutive years, honors poll workers and reminds citizens of the importance of voting in every election.

"The Keystone of Democracy designation recognizes buildings that have served as unique pieces of Americana, where citizens participate in our most basic civic right, voting," Aichele said. "By recognizing these places where citizens gather twice a year to cast ballots, we also recognize the county officials, poll workers and, most importantly, the voters who come here year after year, to make our representative form of government work."

"Because there is no more basic or vital means of participating in our civic life than voting, it is important to recognize the people and places that make our government 'of the people, by the people, for the people' work," Aichele added.

Aichele said the requirement that the building be used for 50 consecutive years was waived for the Simpson Voting House.

The building served as a polling place for 112 straight years, from 1891 until 2003, when it began to fall into disrepair. However, determined efforts by local residents and support from the county have resulted in the Simpson Voting House being restored. 

The renovations, which include making the facility handicapped accessible, will allow the building to be used as a polling place again in next week's primary election.

"The importance of this structure to the people of Derry Township, who worked for a decade to restore it to usable condition, shows how much a part of local history and this community the Simpson Voting House is," Aichele said.  "Because of this, I feel the people of Derry Township and Westmoreland County earned the Keystone of Democracy designation for this building, as it returns to service as a polling place, even though it technically doesn't meet the 50-consecutive years in use criterion."

Aichele highlighted Derry Area Historical Society board member Evelyn Baker-Ruffing for championing the cause of the Simpson Voting House, as well as other local residents who helped refurbish and update the structure, including a Bedford County excavating company which moved the building about a mile east, to accommodate widening of U.S. Route 22. Aichele also thanked the Westmoreland County commissioners and Derry Township supervisors for supporting this effort.

"Many people made restoration of the Simpson Voting House and its designation as a Keystone of Democracy possible, and their dedication to voting and making our system of government work deserves to be recognized," Aichele said.

Residents are encouraged to contact the Department of State at ="file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/jankelly/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/23FPXIV9/ra-st-press@pa.gov" target="_blank">ra-st-press@pa.gov to nominate polling places for the Keystone of Democracy designation.   

Media contact: Ron Ruman, 717-783-1621

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of State