With nine days left before the general election on Nov. 6, any speculation that Centre County voters would be less engaged this year than in 2008 has proven false. At the latest count on Oct. 23, some 112,122 Centre County residents were registered to vote. That number is up from about 106,000 voters in the last presidential election, according to county Elections and Voter Registration numbers.
On Oct. 2, a Commonwealth Court judge quashed a law mandating voters show proper photo identification. The law, ushered in by Republicans, spurred great debate as to whether certain residents including college students, disabled people or people living in lower-income or impoverished areas and who generally dont have transportation would be less likely to take the extra step to obtain a valid photo ID.
An eleventh-hour push prompted by Gov. Tom Corbett to ensure all 71 state licensing centers made photo identifications easily available didnt satisfy Judge Robert Simpson. However, the law is expected to take effect next year.
First-time voters still will be required to show ID, per state law. However, those without ID can fill out a provisional ballot, which will be counted after the polls close.
Democrats hold the lead
Per the latest registration numbers, Centre County Democrats comprise 41.5 percent of all voters, with 46,555 people registered to that party. Republicans total 38 percent or 42,725 people. Over the past decade, Centre County was a blue county. The Democratic bent is reflective of the commonwealths voting since 1992. In 2008, 55 percent of the actual popular vote went to Barack Obama. The two prior presidential elections were closer both at 51 percent for the Democratic candidate.
There are 20 electoral votes up for grabs in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth lost two votes in the last reapportionment.
Recent polls through at least two of the presidential debates between Democratic incumbent Obama and former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney show nearly a dead heat.
Races of local contention
In Centre County, voters will decide five national and state legislative seats as well as two local referendums.
There also are statewide races for attorney general, auditor general and treasurer.
Democratic U.S. Sen. and incumbent Bob Casey is facing a challenge by Republican Tom Smith. In the U.S. House, Republican Glenn Thompson will try to defend his seat against Penn State professor and Democrat Charles Dumas.
In state Senate District 35, Democrat John Wozniak will face Republican challenger Timothy Houser. In state House District 171, Republican Kerry Benninghoff will face a challenge from Democrat Christopher Lee, and in House District 77, incumbent Democrat Scott Conklin will face a write-in candidate, Worth Township Supervisor Ron Reese, a Republican. In District 76, Democrat Mike Hanna is unchallenged.
Also, some voters will see local option questions.
Harris Township has a referendum regarding an open space tax in which residents will be asked if they want to support a 0.1 percent additional earned income tax to finance open space, agricultural easements and acquiring property development rights.
Ferguson Township has a referendum in which voters will decide on a so-called environmental bill of rights.
Residents will be asked whether they want to amend the home rule charter to enumerate rights to pure water, clean air, rights of natural communities, a sustainable energy future and local self-government, and to secure those rights by prohibiting corporations from extracting natural gas in Ferguson Township from installing pipelines and compressor stations and from depositing, storing or transporting wastewater or other byproducts of natural gas development within Ferguson Township.