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Despite low turnout Lebanon County Primary Election had share of drama

Written by John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News | May 21, 2015 4:00 PM
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Photo by Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

Lebanon County Republican Chairman Casey Long (center) and Greg Becker check their smartphones for election returns Tuesday night at Lebanon County Republican Headquarters in Lebanon.

(Lebanon) -- Tuesday's Primary Election was a busy one with voters choosing Republican and Democratic nominees in races ranging from school board to Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice.

Despite the importance of those positions very few bothered to take time to vote.

Turnout on Tuesday was just shy of 18 percent, with a total of 12,205 of a possible 68,186 registered Democrats and Republicans casting votes. Independent and third party candidates are not eligible to vote in the Primary Election unless there is a referendum on the ballot.

That compares to a 23 percent total voter turnout at the previous similar municipal election in 2011, when the county commissioners' seats were on the ballot.

Republican voter turnout was 20 percent, with 8,647 of the county's 42,703 registered Republican voters going to the polls. In 2011, 28 percent of Republicans voted in the primary.

Democratic turnout was 14 percent, with 3,567 of 25,483 registered Democrats voting. That is one percentage point less than the party's turnout in 2011.

The votes are unofficial until Friday when the Lebanon County Board of Elections will convene to tabulate the results, which will include counting write-in votes. The counting will commence at 9 a.m. in the county Commissioners Office and Voter Registration Office in the Lebanon Municipal Building.

It is likely at least one write-in candidate running for Lebanon County Recorder of Deeds, Democrat Michael Deitz, will make it on to the ballot. Democrats cast 173 write-in votes for Recorder of Deeds and Deitz must collect 100 to qualify for the November General election where he would face incumbent Republican Donna Lutz.

Other write-ins may also qualify in uncontested municipal races where the threshold for making the November ballot is just 10 write-in votes That includes in Jackson Township where there were 84 Democratic write-in votes for supervisor, possibly setting up a rematch between Republican nominee Dean Moyer and challenger Ann Gruber.

Here are some other odds and ends from Tuesday's results.

  • The Democratic race for two county commissioner nominations was very close, with the top three candidates -- Chris Tarsa, Jo Ellen Litz, and Kathy Pflueger -- separated by 75 votes, or a margin of 1.3 percent.
  • The Democratic race for two county commissioner nominations was very close, with the top three candidates -- Chris Tarsa, Jo Ellen Litz, and Kathy Pflueger -- separated by 75 votes, or a margin of 1.3 percent.
  • The Lebanon County Board of Elections and the Voter Registration Office probably breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the results of a three person race on the Republican ballot for a pair of two-year seats on Palmyra Borough Council.

For about an hour Tuesday morning in the borough's three precincts, instead of permitting voters to cast their ballots for two candidates a programming error with the touch-screen machines allowed them to vote for only one candidate among Carissa Mellinger, Ralph Watts and Scott Mazzoca. After the error was discovered voters were able to cast their second choice on a paper ballot. However, about 30 voters had already voted by that time. Efforts were made to contact them so they would have an opportunity to cast their second vote. It is not clear how many did.

Because the margin of victory was greater than the 30 voters who voted before the programming error was found, the glitch did not impact the final results, getting the county off the hook for the mistake. Mellinger won with 323 votes and Watts received the second nomination over Mazzoca by a 40 vote margin, 182 to 142.

  • The three GOP nominees for Pennsylvania's Supreme Court -- Mike George, Anne Covey, and Judy Olson -- were also the top three vote getters among Lebanon County Republicans.
  • County Democrats voted for two of the party's eventual state Supreme Court nominees, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty. However, the candidate who was the party's top vote getter in the county, Anne Lazarus, finished fourth statewide.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

Published in Lebanon, News

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