Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
All polling places in Pennsylvania are slated to be up and running Tuesday, though a handful may be run on generators. The announcement came Monday afternoon from the governor’s office, after a weekend of county and state election officials coordinating with the Public Utility Commission to monitor sites that remained in the dark after last week’s super storm Sandy.
The number of polling places without electricity has steadily ticked down. On Friday, 212 had no power. Monday morning, the Department of State said eight polling places were dark in Bucks, Montgomery, Monroe, and Northampton counties. By the afternoon, the number of dark polling places was down to just five.
Election directors in the state’s southeastern counties laughed wearily when asked to reflect on the frenzy to restore power to polling sites and assess them for damage from last week’s super storm Sandy.
“It’s been a crazy week, unprecedented, but we look at our neighbors in Jersey, and say, our thoughts go out to them as they prepare for their elections, because they had, probably, a lot more obstacles to overcome,” said Chris Edwards, Bucks County spokesman.
The Bucks County board of elections moved one polling place in Riegelsville from the borough hall to the fire company – a decision made out of concern about a downed utility pole near the building. Edwards said three of the county’s polling places will run on generator power, with battery back-ups.
Another polling place in Philadelphia has been moved down the street, according to a Philadelphia County elections board spokesman (from 2843 W. Girard Avenue to 2808 W. Thompson Street).
In spite of storm damage, several election directors said they’re expecting voter turnout to be roughly the same as it was in 2008. York County elections director Nikki Suchanic predicted a 60 percent turnout.
“We’re very similar to November 2008 as far as the volume of what we’re doing – the phone calls, the people wanting to make sure they’re registered to vote, verifying where they go to vote,” she said. But she noted a slightly smaller number of applications for absentee ballots this year as compared to 2008. “We sent out over 9,000 absentee ballots for this November’s election. 2008, we did 10,000.”
Voter ID was relegated to afterthought status by many after last week’s storm-related havoc. Randall Wenger, director of elections in Lancaster County, said he’s not expecting delays due to confusion over the law, which was partially enjoined last month.
“Our poll workers will be asking for ID as the law requires, but voters aren’t required to show it, so it really shouldn’t slow anything down,” Wenger said. He predicted a 70 percent turnout in Lancaster County, based on the fact that the number of absentee ballots turned in so far is in keeping with the number collected in past presidential years. “If there are lines, I expect it’ll be due to higher than average turnout.”
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