Montgomery County prepares for ‘robust’ voter turnout Tuesday

Montgomery County officials are expecting a “robust” turnout at the polls for Tuesday’s general election.

“If our absentee ballots are any indication,” said Val Arkoosh, commissioner and chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, “we’re expecting that we should see a pretty significant turnout.”

Presidential election years traditionally garner much higher turnout that elections on interim years. The 2015 general election, which included county commissioners and row officers, had a turnout of about 32.44 percent of registered voters. In 2012, the last presidential election, voter turnout was more than double that, with 74.85 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

A particularly contentious election for president could drive even higher turnout than in the past.

“I think there’s just a heightened sense of urgency for people to be able to vote,” Arkoosh said, when speaking about an increased number of absentee ballot applications. Montgomery County has received nearly 30,000 requests for absentee ballots for the 2016 general election, an increase over the approximately 27,000 requested in the last presidential election.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. There are more than 400 polling places in the county.

Typically, the largest crowds show up at the polls before work, between 7 and 9 a.m. and after work at 5 p.m., officials said. By law, polling places must stay open to accommodate voters in line by 8 p.m.

Prosecutors and detectives from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office will be available on Election Day to assist in any complaints or difficulties voters may have, including intimidation, threats or other abuse of the electoral system.

“This election season has been extremely contentious and discordant. There have been allegations that there will be election irregularities, and while we don’t expect any, we stand ready to assist in protecting the integrity of our electoral system — as we do for every election,” said District Attorney Kevin R. Steele in a release.

The office will be working with the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure that state and federal violations are investigated. Voters who face any problems at the polls should call First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr. at 610-287-3090, or contact the County Radio Room at 610-275-1222.

While discussion and coverage of the race for president has reached a fever pitch, there are a number of other federal and state offices on the ballot, as well as a statewide ballot question and other local roles.

Senate and House

For United States Senate, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey is facing Democratic challenger Katie McGinty to represent Pennsylvania. The race has received national attention for high spending from the campaigns. Toomey is running for his second term in office, while McGinty, former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf, is running to be the first female senator in the state.

For the U.S. House of Representatives, there are five districts up for re-election in Montgomery County. In District 2, Democrat Dwight Evans is running against Republican James Jones. In District 6, Democrat Mike Parrish is running against incumbent Republican Ryan Costello. In District 7, Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis is running against incumbent Republican Patrick Meehan. In District 8, Democrat Steve Santarsiero is running against Republican Brian Fitzpatrick. In District 13, Democrat incumbent Brendan Boyle is running unopposed.

Statewide

For the office of attorney general, two local politicians are running to replace interim Attorney General Bruce Beemer, who was appointed upon the resignation of Democrat Kathleen Kane, who was convicted of perjury and related charges. Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is the Democratic nominee for the position. State Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr. is the nominee for the Republican Party for the position of the state’s top law enforcement official.

For auditor general, four candidates are on the ballot: Democrat incumbent Eugene A. Depasquale, Republican John Brown, Green Party candidate John J. Sweeney and Libertarian Roy A. Minet.

For state treasurer, there are also four candidates: Democrat Joe Torsella, Republican Otto Voit, Green Party candidate Kristin Combs and Libertarian James Babb.

Finally, a statewide ballot question, the same question that caused Montgomery County to delay printing its ballots, is a question about the mandatory retirement age for justices of the Supreme Court and judges throughout the state. According to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, judicial retirement is a constitutional provision that has been in place in Pennsylvania since 1968. The ballot measure would extend that mandatory age, which is currently 70, to the end of the calendar year during which a judge turns 75.

For senators in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, two districts in Montgomery County — 7 and 17 — are up for election, as well as state representatives in districts 26, 53, 61, 70, 131, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 157, 166, 172 and 194.

To see a sample ballot for your voting ward, visit montcopa.org/voterservices and look under 2016 Election Information.

Local Referendums

In Upper Providence, a ballot referendum would expand the membership of the Upper Providence Township Board of Supervisors from a three-person board to a five-person board. A vote of yes would add two more elected supervisors.

In Lower Moreland Township, a ballot referendum is asking residents if they would support an additional earned income tax at the rate of .250 percent by Lower Moreland Township to be used for financing the acquisition of open space, recreation, park and/or historical lands.

Rules of the Polls

Those who want to take a picture of themselves voting, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, can do so. There has been discussion after some early voters have posted “ballot selfies” online about its legality, but the law varies state to state.

“The Department recommends that voters who want to take a picture of themselves voting take care that they not disclose the selections of voters other than themselves. The Department recommends that voters wait until after they leave the polling place to post ballot selfies on social media,” according to voter guidelines.

Voters are permitted to wear campaign buttons or clothing into the polling place, but cannot campaign for their preferred candidate when they are inside where voting occurs.

More regulations about what is permitted inside polling locations can be found on the Department of State website at dos.pa.gov/VotingElections.

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