Record midterm voter turnout set in Chesco, Montco

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter Dig­i­tal First Me­dia Staff Writer Mike Rel­la­han con­tributed to this re­port.

Me­dia opin­ion about Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions is pretty uni­ver­sal — that it was in many ways a ref­er­en­dum on the first two years of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency, one with mixed re­sults.

But the sim­i­lar­i­ties don’t end there, given that voter turnout in Berks, Ch­ester and Mont­gomery coun­ties nearly reached the heights driven by the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

At polling place af­ter polling place Tues­day, elec­tion inspectors, judges and vol­un­teers echoed the same re­frain — “it’s just like 2016.”

Not quite, but close. In Berks County, 141,109 vot­ers cast their bal­lots ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­sults — 45,849 fewer vot­ers than those who cast their bal­lots for Trump or Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016.

But that’s still nearly 78,000 more vot­ers than went to the polls last year, and more than 38,000 higher than the last midterm elec­tion in 2014.

“We had one per­son vote ev­ery minute,” said Gene Nowacki, the mi­nor­ity in­spec­tor at the polling place at Boyertown Bor­ough Hall.

“There were eight peo­ple wait­ing to vote at 7 a.m., Elec­tion Judge Char­lie Fryer said at the site.

“I would say this is on pace with what we saw in 2016,” said Ma­jor­ity In­spec­tor Carol Woz­niak.

Be­fore noon Tues­day, 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 in 2014.

Mont­gomery County de­liv­ered a 135,000-vote ma­jor­ity for Gov. Tom Wolf and his lieu­tenant gov­er­nor run­ning mate, John Fet­ter­man, ac­cord­ing to num­bers re­leased Wed­nes­day 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. Tues­day, 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 Wed­nes­day, 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.”


Vot­ers in Roy­ers­ford ea­gerly showed up at 400 Wal­nut St. to cast their votes on Tues­day. Poll work­ers said they had a steady flow of vot­ers com­ing in through­out the morn­ing.

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