Elections

Centre County voters had new machines to use Tuesday, but how many people showed up?

Important changes coming to voting machines

Jonathan Marks, Commissioner for the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, and members of the Pennsylvania Department of State held an expo to show Centre County voters new voting equipment.
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Jonathan Marks, Commissioner for the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, and members of the Pennsylvania Department of State held an expo to show Centre County voters new voting equipment.

Despite a special election for Congress being held at the same time, voter turnout Tuesday was tracking about the same as previous municipal primary elections.

With 91 out of 91 precincts reporting at midnight, 23,855 ballots had been cast, according to the Centre County elections office. That’s a voter turnout of about 23.5%.

Voter turnout has hovered around 18% in the county’s five previous municipal primary elections, according to data from the Centre County website.

At the Centre Hall Fire Hall, Precinct 6, poll workers said turnout was low — only 241 people had come in to vote by 6:15 p.m. on Election Day. Voters weren’t very enthusiastic overall, said Judge of Elections Carol Clark-Baney, because “they think that there’s not a lot of choices (on the ballot).”

At the Pleasant Gap United Methodist Church, Precinct 79, the mood was similar, though the pace started to pick up in the evening as people came to vote after work, said Judge of Elections Colleen Bloom. That precinct saw 211 voters out of 995 registered voters by 6:30 p.m.

According to the county’s elections office, 101,477 people are registered to vote in the county. Of those, 44,669 are Democrats, 42,770 are Republican and 14,038 are unaffiliated.

The voters who trekked to the polls also had an opportunity to use the county’s new $1.2 million voting machines for the first time. The county commissioners in February approved the purchase of the machines to comply with a Department of State mandate.

“The voting equipment’s been great,” Bloom said. Poll workers get a bit of a break, she said, because the new machines automatically count the write-in candidates, where before workers had to count them by hand. The new ballot scanner runs more smoothly, she said, and doesn’t jam like the older one.

A few fleeting, anticipated issues presented themselves throughout the day. Poll workers corrected them and voters were not affected, county Elections Director Joyce McKinley said Tuesday afternoon.

“We are very pleased with the new equipment and it is working very well,” McKinley said.

Residents were largely able to vote in less than 15 minutes and without issue, McKinley said. The exception was for those who attempted to vote at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church as the polls opened at 7 a.m.

The county elections office became aware about 6:30 a.m. of a medical emergency involving a poll worker’s family member. His fellow poll workers did not have a key to access the church, so the polls’ opening was delayed by about 15 minutes, McKinley said.

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