In a change from most Pennsylvania primaries, all voters will be able to cast their ballot in the State College Area School District for the May 20 election, regardless of party affiliation.
All registered voters in the district can vote for or against the State College high school project $85 million debt referendum in addition to the regular party races for state offices.
But time is running out to register.
The deadline for all voters to register is Monday, Centre County Elections Director Joyce McKinley said. Residents can pick up the forms at the elections office in the Willowbank building in Bellefonte or from the post office or other government buildings. If they are mailed in, they must be postmarked by Monday.
She said the county turnout for primaries generally is low and hard to predict, but the contested races on the Democratic ticket could get those voters out to the polls.
“There are some contested races on the Democratic ballot which will influence (voters), motivate them to get out to vote,” McKinley said.
The big-ticket state office item for the Democrats will be the governor’s race, with four candidates vying for a spot on the ballot in November. The candidates are state Treasurer Rob McCord, former head of the state Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and York businessman Tom Wolf.
The other competitive primary race on the Democratic side will be a primary battle in the U.S. representative race between Kerith Strano Taylor, of Brookville, and Tom Tarantella, of Renovo. The winner would face incumbent U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, in November for the seat.
Incumbents running unopposed in the primary are State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, and state Reps. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, Mike Fleck, R-Three Springs, and Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven. All races could be contested in the primary or general election with a write-in candidate.
And both Centre County Republicans Chairman Daryl Schafer and Centre County Democrats Chairman Greg Stewart agreed that people will be coming out to vote in the State College Area School District for or against the referendum.
A successful referendum for the school district would allow it to incur $85 million in debt to put toward a $115 million high school project.
With groups such as Friends of State High going door-to-door seeking votes, Schafer said that should generate some higher numbers when the polls open. He added that social media campaigns also likely will help when it comes to voter turnout.
“Basically any time voters are reminded and, especially reminded more than one time that the election is coming up, it’s pretty much a proven fact that it does increase voter turnout,” he said.
The Centre County Democrats are encouraging people to vote in favor of the referendum, and the Republicans did not make an endorsement either way.
Ultimately, Stewart encouraged everyone to register and vote because the primaries are a time to choose the strongest candidate in each race for the November general election ballot.
In addition, the deadline for civilian absentee ballots requests is May 13, and they must be returned to the office by May 16, McKinley said.
As of Tuesday, the latest numbers available, there were 107,332 total voters in Centre County, and the number has jumped more than 100 since the beginning of April, according to Commissioner Michael Pipe’s weekly voter registration report.