The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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November 5, 2013

Polls ready; Voters?

Low turnout expected this Election Day

MERCER COUNTY — Election Day had an earlier wake-up call for poll workers than for most citizens who began voting at 7 a.m. today. Before any voters showed up, eight machine custodians fanned out across the county at 6 a.m. to be ready in case of trouble, said Jeff Greenburg, Mercer County elections director.

Judges of election and others made sure machines were operating properly but custodians would be able to respond quickly to any precinct in their zones if minor problems cropped up.

“The first hour, you hold your breath waiting for any calls,” said Greenburg.” “We’ve worked hard to prepare and we’ve been fortunate to have very few problems for the last five or six years. Once you take care of any initial problems, the day usually moves along routinely.”

The most important success of the day might also be measured by how many voters participate. Estimating that number in advance, Greenburg said, is a mix of experience and educated guesses.

“I don’t see anything atypical with this ballot. I don’t have any sense that any race is creating a buzz significant enough that it would affect what would be a typical turnout.”

Greenburg said the races for common pleas court judge and county treasurer at the top of the local ticket have been generating interest as expected because they are county races and both are contested.

Candidates Dan Wallace and Vic Heutsche who are running for judge and Marci Radcliffe and Ginny Richardson who are running for treasurer have been advertising and covering the local fairs and appearing at other community events as candidates do to present themselves to voters.

Judge Christopher St. John has no opponent but is running for retention which gives voters a yes or no choice on his bid for another 10-year term.

Controller Tom Amundsen doesn’t have an opponent on the ballot today.

In municipal races, there are four candidates seeking three seats for Sharon City Council. Two candidates are running for Hermitage treasurer.

“Every race is important and generates its share of interest,” Greenburg said, “but I can’t look at the ballot and say, ‘This race or that race might add a couple of percentage points to the turnout.”

Greenburg said citizens would do well to remember that local governments and school boards have taxing power to reach into purses and wallets and that should motivate more people to participate during local elections.

“Voters have a tendency to focus more on who’s running for president or governor than on local government. I think it should be the opposite when it comes to paying attention and participating in elections.”

History and statistics usually provide the best gauge of how many people will make it to the polls on election day.

The most recent local election in 2011 saw about 24,500 of the county’s registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of about 32 percent.

However, that election cycle had a different slate of countywide candidates. In addition to a race for judge, candidates ran for a greater number of county row offices including district attorney, commissioner, sheriff, recorder, clerk of courts and prothonotary.

Four years ago when the slate of candidates included two row offices as well as school district and municipal candidates, about 20,850 voters went to the polls, registering a turnout of about 25 percent.

“Local elections in the cycle that has more county row offices on the ballot draw a few more voters to the polls,” Greenburg said.

He said he’s expecting a turnout percentage in the high 20s by the time polls close at 8 p.m.

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