The Bucks County Election Board, chaired by Commissioner Bob Harvie (D), voted on Jan. 25 to change six polling places for the Feb. 13 special election for the 140th state House seat.
However, Bucks County authorities did not inform candidates of the changes, said Republican candidate Candace Cabanas.
“The county commissioners changed several Middletown poll locations on Jan. 25, 2024. We are having to scramble to contact Middletown residents. I only found out about it (Sunday) through a volunteer who was contacted by a resident,” Cabanas told DVJournal.
A spokesperson for Democrat James Prokopiak did not respond to requests for comment.
Civil rights advocates sometimes view last-second changes to polling locations or election policies as a form of voter suppression.
“Anything that disrupts voter habits will diminish turnout,” Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Columbia University, told The New York Times. “Changes about location and day and format all have a disruptive effect.”
During the election board meeting, Harvie said some polling sites were moved back to their original locations in Neshaminy School District schools after the county promised the district additional security. Harvie did not specify the reasons for the other changes. And county spokesman James O’Malley did not respond when asked why the campaigns were not notified about the changes.
The special election will tip the balance of the state House, which is now tied at 101 Democrats to 101 Republicans. It was called because John Galloway, the former longtime state representative, was elected to a district justice seat and stepped down.
Prokopiak, a lawyer, is a Pennsbury School Board member and former Falls Township supervisor.
“I’m running because for too many people who live in Lower Bucks County, the American Dream seems to get farther and farther away,” he said. “You know, the cost of putting a roof over their head, paying their bills, taking care of their children’s education while trying to save for retirement and have health care. It’s a heavy burden and I think we need to do better, and I think we need to start in Harrisburg with that.”
Cabanas, a first-time candidate, is a Falls Township native who has worked in health care and the restaurant industry.
“I’m running because I understand firsthand the challenges faced by working families,” said Cabanas. “I know how difficult it is to raise a family and make ends meet in this economy, and I know how important it is to fight for the working-class citizens of Lower Bucks County. That’s exactly what I’ll do as your next state representative.
“In Harrisburg, I will be a vocal supporter of our police, firefighters, and first responders,” she said. “Their daily sacrifices to keep our families safe are invaluable, and they deserve unwavering support and recognition for their heroic efforts.”
She told DVJournal in a podcast that she is a working-class person. Prokopiak has also been invited to be a DVJ podcast guest.
Although the district leans Democratic, the key to winning will be turnout.
Just weeks before the special election, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee sent $50,000 to the House Democratic Caucus. The DLCC also named Prokopiak its first “spotlight candidate” for 2024.
The special election will be held Feb. 13.