MERCER COUNTY —
The number of absentee ballots already returned may bode well for voter turnout in Tuesday’s general election featuring races for state and local judges as well as a slew of school boards and local and county government offices.
Jeff Greenburg, Mercer County elections director, said of the 950 absentee ballots requested by voters, 770 were returned as of Friday morning, compared to about 600 two years ago.
“I guess that shouldn’t surprise me in a municipal year because voters who are applying are typically more serious voters,” he said.
“Obviously those could have an impact on some races,” he added, noting his office begins counting absentee ballots the Friday after the election.
He estimates Tuesday’s turnout may be about 30 percent of registered voters, noting the last three municipal elections have had an average of 28 percent.
The best time to vote, although polls shouldn’t be too crowded at any one time, are mid-morning and mid-afternoon, Greenburg advised.
About two weeks after the election, the board of elections will meet to count write-in votes, Greenburg said he’s had several questions about how write-ins work that he wants to clear up before the election. Poll workers can only guide voters so far, he said.
Poll workers can show voters where to go on the touch screens to write in a name for a particular race, and they can show the voter how to confirm their choice.
They cannot help voters spell candidates’ names or provide specific information on a candidate.
“We’re allowed to tell them things that are more x’s and o’s, but if voters are asking questions like what do I put, Jon or Jonathan, or how do I spell the name, we are not allowed under law to provide (such) information,” Greenburg said.
If voters are worried, they should keep in mind “voter intent” - the phrase state law uses to determine which write-in votes count. If the elections board can determine who the voter wanted to vote for, the vote counts, Greenburg said.
He gives the example of state Rep. Mark Longietti, whose name was spelled 37 different ways in a previous election, but the votes counted.
“Historically, the board has been very reluctant to take away votes from voters as long as it was clear who the voter intended to vote for,” he said.
There are a few precinct changes this election, Greenburg said. One’s in Sharon where voters in Sharon 2-3 will vote at St. Joseph’s Church instead of in Case Avenue School, which was demolished. Another is in Springfield Township, where voters will now go to the Springfield Township building instead of the London Grange Hall in Grove City.
One other polling place - Grove City Christian Academy - saw a name change from Washington School building, but the actual polling place is the same, Greenburg said.
In Ohio, elections officials said they’ve received calls about whether the polls will still be open in the old high school since a new K-12 school was built this year.
Voters will still vote in the former high school auditorium lobby for precinct Brookfield D and the former junior high school auditorium for Brookfield H, K and L, not the new school, officials said.
Greenburg said students from high schools in Farrell, Greenville and Reynolds will be working with adult poll workers in numerous precincts.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
In Ohio, polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.