Security measures affect Posvar polling stations during primaries

By Andrew Shull

Elections officials at the two Posvar Hall polling stations were worried that voters might have… A county election official said nobody was turned away from voting in Pitt’s Posvar Hall for Tuesday’s primary election because they didn’t have a Pitt ID, despite the fears of some poll workers that it might happen.

Because of enhanced security measures implemented following the recent string of bomb threats on campus, a valid Pitt ID has been required to enter many of Pitt’s academic buildings, including Posvar Hall. But two judges of elections in the building speculated that the safety protocol might have led to voters being turned away from their voting station.

John Miller, a judge of elections at the Posvar Hall polling station for non-Pitt-dormitory residents, had to argue with a security guard stationed at the Schenley Drive entrance of Posvar Hall after he left the building and then tried to re-enter. It took a call to the Pitt police by the security guard on duty, who declined to identify herself or provide comment, before he was allowed back in.

Posvar Hall is home to two polling stations that serve the Oakland neighborhood. While one is for students living in Pitt’s residence halls, the other is for inhabitants of residential areas in South Oakland. Oakland is one of the largest voting districts in Allegheny County, but shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, there were more election workers present at the building’s polls than voters.

Mark Wolosik, division manager of the Allegheny County Division of Elections, said that as of 6:30 p.m., his office had not received any complaints from voters who were turned away from Posvar Hall. He said that polling places would stay open until 8 p.m. as planned.

Wolosik said he was informed just before 5:30 p.m. that security guards were turning away poll workers, so he called Pitt police to rectify the situation. He said that the Pitt police then informed security guards to let people into Posvar Hall to vote.

James Rue, a supervisor for U.S. Security Associates, the security agency in charge of Pitt’s buildings, said he didn’t tell his staff to make any adjustments to the enhanced security procedure to allow for non-Pitt students to enter the building. The staff only accepted people with Pitt IDs.

Two poll workers, James Love and Bonnie Krout, said a security guard on duty questioned them on their way into the building in the morning to set up voting machines.

They said the security guard on duty at the Posvar entrance across the bridge from Litchfield Towers refused to let them in before speaking with the Pitt police, who eventually let them into the building with a valid drivers license.

Rue, who was working in the basement of Posvar at the parking garage entrance, said that the Pitt police told him that an on-site judge of elections would be in charge of letting in voters.

The polling stations were situated on the opposite side of the first floor from the available entrance, and Miller said that he received no such instructions.

Pitt police at the building declined to comment.

“We’re not supposed to be [at the entrance],” said Miller, whose job is to oversee the polling stations. “I don’t have time.”

Miller said that he was worried that voters might have been turned away because they did not have Pitt IDs. Polls opened at 7 a.m., which left 10 hours between their opening and when Wolosik was informed of the situation at Posvar.

“Polling places are supposed to be open,” Miller said.

Alethea Sims, the other judge of elections working at Posvar, said the security policy might have led to decreased voter turnout, although she could not provide any numbers. She said that during the presidential primary four years ago, the polling stations were much busier, and that the security measures could be a possible reason for the seemingly diminished number of voters.

“I would have rather [the polling stations] be moved,” she said.