Midterm sees record turnout
Majority Inspector Carol Wozniak.
Before noon Nov. 6, Jackie Gleason, majority inspector for the Douglass District 4 polling place at the Gilbertsville firehouse, said “we’ve already passed our total for the primary.”
Dave LaMonaco didn’t mind waiting in the line though.
“I’ve already told people if you lopped off my leg with an ax, I would still be here to vote,” he said with a laugh.
Elsewhere in Montgomery County, the story was the same.
Grabbing a quick slice of pizza, Debbie Whalen, majority inspector at Pottsgrove Middle School, said Upper Pottsgrove voting was so busy she had to choose between lunch and a bathroom break.
“We ran out of ‘I voted’ stickers before noon,” she said.
Whalen said she was seeing a lot of new voters from new developments, as well as a lot of young voters.
“We had a girl who was voting for the first time, so she needed to show ID but she didn’t have it. She went home and came back to vote,” said Whalen. “I think that’s wonderful. They’re interested in making a difference.”
Voters in Montgomery County certainly did make a difference, with a 65 percent voting rate; under the record 78 percent turn-out for 2016, but towering over the 32 percent turn-out in 2017 and the 48 percent turnout in the last midterm election
Montgomery County delivered a 135,000-vote majority for Gov. Tom Wolf and his lieutenant governor running mate, John Fetterman, according to numbers released Nov. 7 by the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.
The county’s 255,000 votes in total for the WolfFetterman ticket constituted the third largest trove of Democratic votes in the state, after only Philadelphia and Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh). The county also produced a majority of more than 120,000 votes for Sen. Bob Casey, helping him to win a third term U.S. Senate term, according to Democratic Chairman Joseph Foster.
“Over the years, we have turned this county from red to blue, and now we are consolidating our strength across the board,” he said in the statement.
A look at the Montgomery County elections map shows a sea of blue townships and boroughs, with red indicating Republican majorities only in the northwest corner, from the Pottsgroves north.
One place that strength showed was in the 146th state House legislative race in which Democratic challenger Joe Ciresi beat incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Quigley by about 2,800 votes out of 41,000 cast.
Two years ago, Ciresi lost to Quigley by just 600 votes out of roughly 30,000 cast.
And even though Democrat Linda Fields of Pottstown lost her bid to unseat Republican state Sen. Bob Mensch in the 24th Dist., she earned 585 more votes than Mensch in the Montgomery County portion of the district.
That advantage was erased six times over by the more than 3,000 vote lead Mensch took over Fields in the Berks County portion of the district.
Incumbent Republican state Sen. John Rafferty Jr. had no such safe haven in the 44th Senate District, split between Montgomery and Chester counties with a portion of Berks. His opponent, political novice Katie Muth, won in both Chester and Montgomery counties.
In fact, she beat Rafferty by nearly 6,000 votes out of 112,713 cast — a 2.7 percent margin of victory.
And while Montgomery County’s shift from reliably blue to reliably red has been ongoing for several years, the shift in Chester County is much more startling, where Republicans still hold a 11,500 advantage in voter registrations.
During the last midterm in 2014, voter turnout in Chester County was just under 47 percent and last year, a paltry 32 percent of registered voters went to the polls. On Nov. 6, voter turnout was more than 66 percent.
“This is phenomenal, such a great turnout,” Susan Scott, judge of elections in North Coventry’s middle district polling place at the Norco firehouse. “I love how many first-time voters we’re seeing. More than we’ve seen in a long time.”
And that turnout translated into some of the most startling upsets.
In addition to Rafferty, Chester County voters provided victories to Democrats Dan K. Williams in the 74 Legislative District — the county’s first black Democratic state representative — Danielle Friel Otten in the 155th District, Melissa Shusterman in the 157th District, Christina Sappey in the 158th District, and Kristine Howard in the 167th District.
The last four bested incumbent Republicans Becky Corbin, Warren Kampf, Eric Roe and Duane Milne, respectively.
In an interview Nov. 7, John Kennedy, professor of political science at West Chester University, said the county’s vote for Democrats underscored the changing face of the political map across southeastern Pennsylvania.
“I think the results are from a combination of factors. You had candidates who were well matched for the district — women in many instances — and who provided an antidote to Trump,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said there has been for some time a path for Chester County Democrats to make it to the state Capitol, “but this being the kind of year it is made that easier. Republicans were more vulnerable, and the same way it happened in Montgomery County, the balance has shifted.”
Upper Pottsgrove voters line up at the registration table at Pottsgrove Middle School.
Daniel Murphy, was voter number 700 at the Grace Lutheran Church polling place in Pottstown. To his right is Amy Gazillo, voter 699. During the primary election in May only 259 votes were cast there all day.
Turnout was brisk for the two Douglass (Mont.) Township voting districts that cast their ballots at the Gilbertsville