Morning turnout Tuesday for the 2014 midterm election surprised Tom Fonda.
“It’s better than I anticipated, and it’s been steady for the past two hours,” said Fonda, judge of elections in the Park Forest Village United Methodist Church poll. By 9 a.m., he had offered voting stickers to 110 people of 1,002 registered voters.
On a sunny, warm day, Centre County residents in droves began choosing the next state governor, 5th Congressional District representative, state 81st Legislative District representative and state 77th Legislative District representative.
Into the afternoon, several precincts were reporting a constant flow of voters.
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“It’s been different this year,” said Carol Confer, judge of elections at the Precinct 43 poll at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church near Lemont. “People have been coming in all day.”
By about 2 p.m., the poll had logged nearly 500 voters. Confer predicted at least 300 more would show up by the end of the day.
Precinct 47 poll workers at the Boalsburg Fire Company in Boalsburg have been seeing about 100 Harris Township voters an hour throughout the day, despite a brief morning delay while a paper jam in the ballot box was fixed after a phone call with a technician, Judge of Elections Jeannette Morrison said.
She predicted 40-percent turnout for her precinct.
“Harris Township always has a strong turnout,” Morrison said. “I encourage people to come out and vote because it’s the right thing to do.”
About 520 voters cast their ballots by noon at the nearby Precinct 56 poll at St. John’s United Church of Christ. Judge of Elections Sharon Martin expected about 1,200 voters by the poll’s 8 p.m. closing.
“There’s been a steady flow of people, and very busy like a presidential election,” Martin said. “I can’t say why it’s so busy, but this is a good sign.”
Joyce McKinley, director of the county Office of Elections, said that, other than a couple of ballot machines needing to be replaced because of mechanical glitches, the morning went smoothly around the county’s precincts.
Turnout, she said, has been “steady” across the county.
“I’ve heard better than it was in the (spring) primary,” she said.
The congressional race pits Republican incumbent and Howard Township resident Rep. Glenn Thompson, seeking a fifth term, against Democratic challenger Kerith Strano Taylor, a Brookville attorney.
For the 77th seat, state Rep. Scott Conklin is seeking a fifth term against Libertarian Charles Martin.
For the 81st District seat, which now represents two Ferguson Township precincts, three Patton Township precincts, Port Matilda and all of Worth and Taylor townships that were in the 77th, incumbent Republican Mike Fleck is vying with Republican challenger Richard Irvin.
Irvin, a write-in candidate, defeated Fleck in the May primary, but Fleck, who cross-filed, advanced on the Democratic ballot. He has said he won’t switch parties if re-elected.
At Park Forest Village UMC, in the 81st District, John Knedler walked back with quarts of soup bought after voting. He wouldn’t say which candidates he’d voted for, but noted that any spending by politicians particularly concerns him.
“I have conservative leanings, and I think we should account for every dollar they take from people, and I feel strongly about that,” he said.
At the Stepping Stone Community Church in Ferguson Township, one new 81st District voter wasn’t impressed with his choice, particularly with Fleck.
“Oh, he’s a Republican,” the man said before hurrying off into the polling place without giving his name. “I don’t vote for Republicans.”
Outside the church, Democratic volunteer Sue Werner and her Republican counterpart, Peggy Grimes, were handing out campaign literature.
“It’s been really good, a good turnout,” Werner said.
Grimes agreed, just as happy with the results by 11 a.m.
“Everyone has been very polite,” Grimes said. “Most of the people I spoke with said they were going to vote Republican, or they just walked by and said they knew who they were going to vote for.”
According to poll worker Hartley Kinsey, the poll had 321 voters, or about 20 percent of those registered, in a “non-stop trickle.”
Down the road, at the Videon Central Inc. building, voters were lined up five deep. The numbers came in about 100 an hour, poll worker Laura Smith said.
“For a non-presidential year, it’s been a great turnout,” she said, crediting it to the gubernatorial race between incumbent Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf. That Ferguson Township precinct falls in the 171st Legislative District, where state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff is running unopposed.
The turnout didn’t surprise Democratic volunteer Art Patterson at his post outside the poll.
“A lot of people have come by, and a lot of people, unlike other years, have volunteered that they are supporting Tom Wolf because there is such animosity for Corbett,” Patterson said.
Voting at Park Forest UMC, Heather McCune Bruhn said she thought Wolf would be a good replacement for Corbett.
“His stance on education has bothered me from the very start,” she said, citing previous state education funding cuts.
She said she also didn’t like how Corbett, in her opinion, favored the natural gas industry at the expense of the environment.
“To start potentially affecting that without knowing the consequences, I find that shocking and disturbing,” she said.
After Korean War veteran Regis Kingera, of State College, cast his ballot at the State College Municipal Building, he stood outside talking to people, at one point waving to State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.
He was one of 59 people who voted at the poll as of 12:15 p.m.
“I’ve been voting since Eisenhower’s second term,” he said, adding he hasn’t voted for a Republican since then.
He said all elections are important, especially local ones.
“Think of the countries that don’t have the right to vote,” he said.
George Potter, of College Township, carried out his “civic duty” at the Mount Nittany United Methodist Church.
His main concern was the gubernatorial race. Though he wouldn’t name his choice, Potter said he wanted to see changes that included ways to help fund schools without tax increases.
On the other hand, he supports privatizing liquor sales and enforcing a gas tax at the pumps.
“It’s a privilege to vote,” he said. “You don’t get to do that everywhere.”
Check back for updates.