This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.
By Spotlight PA Staff
Election Day 2022 in Pennsylvania is over.
On Tuesday, seven Spotlight PA reporters — in collaboration with our partners from Votebeat and students from the News Lab @ Penn State University — monitored voting across the state.
We’re still following the process, the counting of mail and in-person ballots, legal challenges, and everything else you need to know as Pennsylvania works toward finalizing its election results.
- John Fetterman wins U.S. Senate race
- Josh Shapiro wins governor’s race
- What we know about election lawsuits filed so far
- Luzerne County polling places will be open until 10 p.m.
- A last-minute change will slow the count in Philadelphia
- See what’s motivating voters to show up today
- Frustration at polling place in Erie
John Fetterman wins U.S. Senate race
Democrat John Fetterman will be Pennsylvania’s next U.S. senator, defeating Republican Mehmet Oz.
The Associated Press called the race for Fetterman shortly before 2 a.m., with 86% of the votes counted. The Democrat was leading with 49.9% of the vote, according to unofficial results.
“This campaign has always been about fighting for everybody that got knocked down, that ever got back up,” Fetterman said in his victory speech.
Oz had not conceded as of 1:55 a.m.
The seat was vacated by Republican Pat Toomey, who is retiring. Pennsylvania’s other senator is Democrat Bob Casey.
Josh Shapiro wins governor’s race
Democrat Josh Shapiro has won the election to be Pennsylvania’s 48th governor, cruising to a decisive victory over far-right Republican Doug Mastriano.
The Associated Press called the race for Shapiro around 12:15 a.m. Wednesday.
“While my name was on the ballot, it was always your rights, it was always your futures that were on the line right here in the commonwealth,” Shapiro said at a victory party in Montgomery County. “It was a test of whether or not we valued our rights and freedoms and whether we believed in opportunity for all Pennsylvanians. And tonight, I humbly stand before you as your governor-elect knowing that you met this moment.”
Top Pa. official urges patience as Election Day turns into Election Night
At a 9 p.m. news conference, Acting Secretary of State Lehigh Chapman again stressed the need for patience as election officials across the state tabulate in-person and mail ballots.
“Election officials and all 67 counties are well aware that the eyes of the nation are on the Keystone State tonight and they are counting as quickly as they can,” she said. “They are also prioritizing accuracy over speed as they should.
“As I said many times before the election, we will not have unofficial results for days.” —Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
The final voters in Oil City
Roberta Kahler and Nathaniel Davis were two of the last three voters to cast their ballots at Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City. Both came in a rush, thinking they wouldn’t make it, with a little under half an hour before polls closed.
Their votes were among the 365 others cast Tuesday at that polling station, according to poll worker Nicole Laverdure. Laverdure, 22, has been working the polls for four years and said most residents vote in the morning, with numbers decreasing around 5 p.m., especially during non-presidential elections.
Laverdure said no one usually turns up within the last hour of voting and that the polling center usually only sees around 120 to 150 voters.
This year, Second Presbyterian Church witnessed a voter turnout that hasn’t been this high since the 2020 presidential election.
“It was fun to have everybody. It wasn’t boring,” Laverdure said. “Sometimes you’re sitting here like OK,’ twiddling your thumbs. I love to [work the polls] and I tell everybody to come back out and vote again.”
Kahler, 75, works as a physician for UPMC and didn’t know when or if she would get the chance to visit her precinct today as she worked a 12-hour shift. She said she didn’t want to miss something so important.
“It’s scary [voting late] because I thought I was gonna miss it,” she said.
Kahler’s original plan was to leave at noon to cast her vote and return to work, but after learning the polls closed at 8 p.m. — not 7 p.m., as she initially thought — she decided to go later.
She got tied up at work, and she said she was afraid she wouldn’t make it. But she did, because “every vote counts,” and she wants the Democrats to win.
“It’s very important to maintain our democracy and not attack the Capitol when things don’t go the way you want them to,” she said.
Davis followed his tradition of getting his vote in when he had time for it today, and that just happened to be before polls closed.
Similar to Kahler, Davis also voted Democrat, noting that he voted for abortion rights and against conservative views.
“I feel like they’re getting harsher and harsher and further and further to go along with,” he said.
Davis said he wants his wife and daughter to grow up in a good environment where their reproductive rights are protected. He said his wife holds Democratic views and voted today as well. —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Watching for voter intimidation in Braddock
In the home base of Summer Lee and John Fetterman, Michael Rosenzweig used his legal skills for the Democratic Party at the Braddock Municipal Building, until the polling station closed at 8 p.m.
When Rosenzweig is not doing voter protection, he serves people through his personal injury firm. “This is a service that lawyers do for the Democratic Party,” he said.
Voter intimidation is especially present in Democratic districts, Rosenzweig said, including Braddock. Usually, he only serves during very politically charged elections, such as ones for president, but now it has become necessary during the midterms.
As a volunteer, Rosenzweig stands outside of his assigned polling place and watches for voter intimidation, and he intervenes if needed by calling the sheriff or filing with the court.
“I’ve seen where they pull up in mock police cars and stand there looking like Men in Black movies,” Rosenzweig said. “You know, with sunglasses like those secret agents trying to deter people from voting.”
Rosenzweig has been serving as a voter protection lawyer since the 2008 election and has been stationed at different locations, including the University of Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, CMU, and several other locations.
Today at the polls he did not have to intervene in any conflict. He noted that his station in Braddock has been “very peaceful.” —Abigail Chachoute, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Election Day polls are closed in most of Pennsylvania, but the process is far from over
The polls are closed in most of Pennsylvania after an Election Day that saw high turnout in some parts of the state, few significant issues for in-person voters, and rampant misinformation about ballot counting in Philadelphia.
But for a host of reasons, you might not know all the winners before you go to bed.
Marquee races for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as closely watched contests for the U.S. House and General Assembly, were on the ballot.
Two backgrounds, one conclusion
Simon Ghezzi lives and studies in California, Washington County. Terry Hungerford lives just across the river in Hiller, Fayette County. The paths bringing them to the area are different but they both believe younger generations must vote.
Ghezzi, 43, a native of the Poconos, lived in Philadelphia for a number of years before moving to California in January to attend PennWest University. Ghezzi has a part-time job at the California Public Library. He said one of the first things he did when he moved was register to vote.
“Voting matters, regardless of what the hot-button topics are,” Ghezzi said. However, he admitted it’s difficult to vote while moving often, particularly in local elections.
Hungerford, 65, left his hometown to move to Atlanta, where he lived for about 30 years before coming back to this area about five years ago. He now lives just a few miles from California. No matter your place of residency, it’s important to ensure you vote, Hungerford said.
“It’s one of the most important things you are privileged to do,” Hungerford said. He based his vote largely on which party believes everyone has the right to do what they want with their bodies.
Ghezzi said he tends to lean liberal, too, particularly in today’s political climate with such extremism on the right. “Meeting in the middle is harder,” Ghezzi said.
While completing a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, Ghezzi noticed the increase in political activity on campus at PennWest, especially with volunteer talks, Zoom discussions, and posters. He noted lots of the posters supported Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate John Fetterman but there was support for candidates of both parties.
One thing’s certain — increased political activity from younger generations is essential, according to both.
Throughout his time on campus and in classes, Ghezzi noticed the abundant amount of apathy present within the attitudes of college students.
“It’s important that the younger generation is engaged because it involves you,” Hungerford said. “You think it doesn’t involve you but it does every day of the week. You’re involved in it whether you know it or not.” —Alexis Yoder, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
In small-town Venango, poll workers know the neighbors
On a sunny afternoon, Eric and Jessica Graf walked around piles of fallen leaves holding hands with their three little children on their way to cast their votes. The Grafs’ twin daughters are 4 years old and their son is 7 years old.
“Anytime there’s an election, we bring them along,” Jessica, 41, said. “We figure it’s good for them to see what we’re up to and good for them to see people in town.”
Venango is a small town with a main street and 212 people. Jessica said the children know all the poll workers. For them, taking a voting trip and enjoying some leftover doughnuts from the poll workers is sort of “like an after-school activity.”
After the Grafs came out of the township building, they ran into Robert Waterhouse, 63, who came by to vote, too.
“I vote Republican pretty much straight,” Waterhouse said, “Gas went up another dime. The economy is pretty rough. So I’m going to vote for who I think is going to do a good job.”
After Waterhouse left, Eric shared his views: “I think for me personally, I don’t believe ‘the big lie.’ And I don’t support candidates who support that. And so I believe our elections are fair and run well.”
“And I look for people who believe the same and will vote accordingly in their elected office,” he said. —Alicia Chiang, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Young voters urge other young voters to go out and vote
At PennWest California, Amanda Smitley, 20, and Rebekah Schreck, 20, spent the day encouraging others to vote, across campus and across the town of California, Washington County.
Over the past month, Smitley, the secretary of Cal College Democrats, and Schreck have helped register students and other young people to vote. Smitley believes their efforts have been significant.
However, heading over to her polling station at lunchtime today, Smitley noticed she was the only person under 60 going in and coming out to vote.
“It was pretty crazy. Young people are not voting and it’s more serious for us because this is going to be directly affecting our lives,” she said. “Younger people, teens in college, need to get out and vote because this is a very big thing, especially this midterm election.”
She hopes the obvious absence of young people at her polling place is simply due to young voters opting to vote by mail, instead.
Both women identified reproductive rights as the most important issue for them this election. Schreck said sexual assaults and rape occur far too frequently on college campuses. This impacts her vote, and she said she believes it should be an issue that motivates other young people as well.
“Your vote directs so much more than you think it does,” Smitley said. —Valeria Quinones of the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Venango resident upholds American freedom of voting for ancestors
Mark Olenick embraces the melting pot culture of America. Because his father is a first-generation Slav, Olenick welcomes freedom in America with open arms and thinks everyone else should too.
To Olenick, one of the core parts of embracing that freedom is exercising his right to vote, even in a small town of 212 like Venango, Crawford County.
“One person, one vote, you know. And whether you’re in a big city, or a small town, each one carries the same weight,” he said.
Living in a small town comes with its perks, though, Olenick said, like not facing voter intimidation. Olenick thinks people should cherish that as well as the opportunity to vote — living the American dream many peoples’ ancestors desired.
Now, Olenick believes voters need to protect that opportunity, with events like the U.S. Capitol insurrection putting democracy at risk. He said that “voting… is not supposed to last 365 days,” and results should be accepted immediately and people should move on.
Instead of questioning results, Olenick said he puts faith in this democratic republic to make sure his vote counts.
“This country is a melting pot, and there’s no reason why we should ever stop that,” Olenick said. “I mean, what makes this country great is our diversity and our freedom. So that’s why it’s important to vote to make sure that still happens.” —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
York County mostly finished with mail-in ballots
York County wrapped up the bulk of its mail ballot pre-canvassing in less than eight hours, much faster than many other counties in the area.
By approximately 2 p.m., the county had opened and scanned the majority of the roughly 35,000 mail and absentee ballots it had received, Greg Monskie, the county’s chief operations officer, said Tuesday night.
Ballots continued to come in through the county’s drop box until 8 p.m., but Monskie said those will be counted by the remaining county staff tonight and all in-person and mail ballot votes should be uploaded to the county’s website before midnight.
“We have a very good operation,” he said. “In the last five elections we have been done before midnight and we expect the same tonight.”
York County treats Election Day as a paid county holiday, and many county employees choose to come help with operations.
Monskie said the county found approximately 1500 “non-conforming” mail ballots, which includes undated and incorrectly dated mail ballots as well as “naked” ballots which were returned without the inner secrecy envelope. —Carter Walker, Votebeat / Spotlight PA
How a small town avoids political polarization
Voting in Venango is different. In a town of 212, residents typically only wait a few seconds to cast their vote after which they walk back down the street to their homes. And that’s it.
For as long as John Edwards, 71, has lived in the Crawford County borough, he remembers it as a “lowkey” town during elections. Neighbors harbor no animosity toward one another for supporting a particular party or try to convince each other to swing a different way.
“The guy that lives a couple of doors down — for the last election, he had a big Trump sign [in his yard],” Edwards said. “Students from the college from Allegheny had torn his sign down. So, I went to reassure him that I didn’t think that was cool, even though I was not going to vote for Trump.”
Edwards said he thinks the community understands everyone’s political views are predetermined, which results in less political talk in the town. While political ads run rampant on television, Edwards said many Venango residents’ yards are absent of political signage.
While neighbors don’t advertise their political views, Venango typically votes Republican. In the 2020 presidential election, 75 Venango Borough residents voted for Donald Trump and 55 voted for Joe Biden.
Edwards thinks maybe the lack of a heavily divided political landscape in the community could also be chalked up to politicians overlooking the small town, but he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“We all know where we stand politically,” he said. “But we’re all neighbors and friends. That’s what’s nice about this particular time, and maybe it’s because it’s so small… that you just either avoid politics or you just keep it civil.” —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
In Clearfield, the No. 1 issue is the economy
In Clearfield, the seat of its namesake county, around sunset, voters said they voted based on the economy and because they felt inflation was out of control.
Nick Sidorick, 51, a local property manager who described himself as conservative, said the lack of qualified workforce is posing a challenge to the town, and that he felt the government needed to curtail unemployment benefits to keep folks working. The last time he voted for a Democrat, he said, was in a local race.
Lucas Malloy, 33, is a safety manager at a manufacturing company. He said inflation was his No. 1 issue, but he split his ticket because he felt one of the Republican candidates was too extreme (he didn’t specify who).
Connie Mason, 68, said she was worried about the state of the country. She is a foster mother and said she used to be a clinical medical assistant. She said she believes Republicans have a more positive impact on the country. When Donald Trump was in office, the economy was better, she said.
“I’m looking to pull our country out of the sewer,” she said.
Clearfield is a Republican stronghold. A couple who voted Democrat said they didn’t want to be named or interviewed because of how small Clearfield is, and they feared they’d be treated differently if people in town found out how they voted. —Ashad Hajela, Spotlight PA
‘You don’t know who’s a friend’ in South Philly
South Philly resident Saralyn Rosenfield says her reason for turning out to vote this year was pretty simple: “I care about our democracy.”
Rosenfield, who is 38 and a registered Democrat, arrived at her polling place at the Barry Playground a little after 5 p.m., as the post-work flow of voters was picking up. Along with her concerns about the strength of democracy, Rosenfield, who works in nonprofits, said another chief goal is preserving access to abortion.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has said he supports a ban on abortion without exceptions.
Rosenfield’s views are common in Philly, but not so common at this particular polling place in the 26th Ward. This is one of the few precincts in the city that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and Rosenfield said politics can get “tense” in her neighborhood.
“You don’t know who’s a friend,” she said.
Some voters aligned with Rosenfield — like a father and daughter who didn’t want to share their names but were, respectively, worried about Republicans cutting Social Security and appalled at the idea of a famous TV doctor — GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz — becoming Pennsylvania’s U.S. senator.
But more were on a very different end of the political spectrum. Ron Zungolo, 66, noted that while he’s a registered Democrat, he has voted for Republicans for years and this election was no exception. His biggest reason why was his opposition to abortion, and his belief that Democrats in Philadelphia haven’t been tough enough on crime — a key talking point in both Oz and Mastriano’s campaigns.
Likewise, 37-year-old Andrew Capone said he supported Republicans up and down the ticket. He only changed his party registration to Republican last year, he said — primarily out of dislike for President Joe Biden.
No other issues came to mind for him when asked what he cared most about. He just wants “change,” he said.— Katie Meyer, Spotlight PA
In Washington County, a state House candidate finds support from high school friends
Two women stood in front of United Christian Church in Coal Centre, Washington County, behind a stand advocating for their middle school friend Bud Cook, a Republican candidate running for Pennsylvania’s 50th state House District.
Janet Sholock and her friend Debby, who didn’t want to share her last name, have been supporting Cook since his days as the leader of the California Area High School Class of ‘74.
“He had leadership qualities back when we were in high school. He was our class president, and he still guides the class of ‘74 every year,” Sholock said.
Debby’s sign came from her garage. It had been stored there since the time when Cook ran for 49th District.
Cook doesn’t sugarcoat anything, Debby said. “He works well with women,” she said, citing Cook’s work with the Women in Leadership Conference at the California University of Pennsylvania in November 2021.
“He is working for the people. He’s an honest hard-working person,” Debby said.” If he sees an issue or a problem he is going to try and solve it.”
Debby said she had no idea who the opposing candidate, Democrat Doug Mason, was until her dinner with Cook on Sunday.
“One thing that Buddy did from the start … he knocked on every single door in his district, and he spoke to the people. He got a chance to explain his platform in person to each and every person that answered their door.”
Sholock said a number of people she’s told today to “Vote Buddy” have agreed.
“He does it because he loves the area and the people,” Debby said. —Valeria Quinones, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
‘How are we gonna live?’
Annie Shelton said she decided to vote because of Barack Obama.
“I wasn’t coming until he made me realize whining wasn’t gonna do no good,” she said. Shelton voted for Democrats on Tuesday at the Rodman Street Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. Still, she thinks “both sides are rotten.”
“I like [President Joe] Biden. He did help us out. But the rest of them are all on the same page, taking our Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “What are we gonna do without that? How are we gonna live?” —Lilly Riddle of the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Mom votes with — and for — her daughter in East Liberty
Dawn Young, said she came out to vote because of issues like gun control and abortion rights. She visited her polling station in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood with her 14-year-old daughter in tow.
“I think John Fetterman has a love for the city,” Young, 53, said. “He’s advocated with the numbers on his arm, and I think that says a lot about how he feels about gun control.”
The “numbers on his arm” refers to the tattoos that Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has on his right forearm. Each of the nine tattoos memorializes the dates when people lost their lives to gun violence in Braddock while Fetterman was mayor there.
Young said she voted because, “what’s at stake for young women is extremely important.” Pointing to her daughter, she added: “I’m doing this for her.” —Lilly Riddle, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
East Liberty resident reflects on her long history of working polls
Lillie Mosley, 87, sat in a polling station in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood with a clipboard, handing out flyers for Democratic candidate La’Tasha Mayes.
Mayes is a local reproductive rights activist running for Pennsylvania’s 24th state House District.
Chattering children’s voices could be heard from a nearby parking lot as Mosley greeted the voters entering the polling station. Mosley, who has lived in the area for 51 years, said this will be her last year working as a precinct commiteewoman.
Mosley was motivated to vote by a sense of civic duty and a desire for political unity in the community, which she added has changed dramatically over the past six years.
“All this fighting and hate, I don’t get it. All this shooting and guns, I don’t like that,” Mosley said. “I hate to see the young Black generation get killed. I’d like for [candidates] to get the guns away.”
“I have a daughter, grandkids, great-grandkids coming up, and I want a nice life for them.” —Lilly Riddle, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
A desire for more Hispanic representation in Hazleton
Despite not being able to vote, Willy Diaz has been in front of the Lackawanna Community College Polling Place in Hazleton since 6 a.m.
Diaz, who works at Amazon and moved to the U.S. six months ago, said he felt that he needed to support Yesenia Rodriguez, a Hispanic candidate for Hazleton’s 116th state House District. Others had a similar mindset.
Vianney Castro came to vote at 5 p.m., after work. He said his most critical issues were increasing representation and fighting back against some of the racist comments he’s heard from candidates. He singled out congressional candidate Jim Bognet, who “called immigration a plague on his hometown,” according to WFMZ.
“We need Hispanic people to have somebody represent us in the government,” said Castro.
When Daulton Zschunke came to the polls, he brought his mother. Since a young age, he’s been interested in politics — even before he could vote, he would research candidates and tell his mother which she should choose.
Zschunke, an owner of a tattoo parlor, said he’s a registered Republican but voted for candidates in both major parties.
“In some areas, I had to pick the lesser of two evils,” said Zschunke.
While he was initially excited by Mehmet Oz’s U.S. Senate candidacy, Zschunke felt that Democrat John Fetterman was a safer bet. He knew that Fetterman was committed to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare while he felt Oz may go back on his word.
Similarly, Zschunke wasn’t excited by Democrat Josh Shapiro but he felt that GOP candidate for governor Doug Mastriano was too radical and would be unwilling to compromise.
“Mastriano makes Republicans look bad,” said Zschunke. “Nothing will get done.”
He voted for Bognet for Congress, noting that he and his family knew Bognet. But he voted for Rodriguez for state representative as he was impressed by her dedication to talking with everyone from her community.
“She actually went door to door,” said Zschunke. “If you have the guts to knock on my door in the middle of winter, and let me ask her as many questions as I could — she’s straight up.” —Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA
High turnout in Pottstown
As the sun set in Pottstown, Trenita Lindsay commented on the high turnout at Grace Lutheran Church, a precinct.
“Usually we don’t reach this level until the end of the day,” she said.
Pottstown, an urban pocket and Democratic stronghold in growing Montgomery County, sits on the edge of competitive state Senate District 24.
The district is currently represented by Republican state Sen. Bob Mensch, who is not running for reelection. Instead, Republican state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick faces Democrat Jill Dennin in a region where no party has a majority.
Dennin stopped at Grace Lutheran Church as she toured polling places in the district she hopes to flip for the Democrats.
“We spent the summer knocking doors in this neighborhood,” Dennin said. “People in Pottstown feel disenfranchised. I said ‘But you have the power!’”
Her campaign used a fairly aggressive field plan, she said, to increase voter turnout. When people opened their doors, they had one thing on their minds: “Property taxes.”
But Dennin has heard “heartbreaking” stories from women who have gotten abortions in Pennsylvania. One woman, she said, decided to end her pregnancy after learning she carried the genetic marker for Tay-Sachs Disease, an extremely rare neurological disorder.
“That should be her choice,” Dennin said.
The issue was an animating force for Pottstown voters as well.
Gretchen Trout, 63, doesn’t think abortion is right, she said, but “I don’t think I should be able to tell someone else what to do.”
Someone who has gotten pregnant because of rape or incest has “enough trauma,” she said, without having to carry the pregnancy to term.
Matt McCormick, 33, and Sarah Vallery, 35, also showed up to the polls thinking about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The pair became more engaged in politics after the attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“We’ve learned in the past if we don’t vote, dumb stuff happens,” McCormick said. “Politics have become a reality TV show — and it’s sad. We try to take it seriously.”
“Small elections are really important for local government,” Vallery added. —Danielle Ohl, Spotlight PA
Greene County couple worries about vanishing jobs, drug use
Jason Maddich, 49, voted this afternoon at the Boy Scouts of America Lodge in Rices Landing, Greene County. The building is located along the Monongahela River and sits beside a closed coal mine.
A former coal miner, Maddich said jobs have dried up in southwestern Pennsylvania and across the state.
“There’s nothing in Greene County — nothing,” Maddich said. “Coal mines are shutting down and they totally want to stop drilling. They want to take everything away — let’s make it all electric.”
Maddich’s wife, who has worked in the oil and gas industry for over a decade, asked to remain nameless due to concerns about her job. They both strongly oppose abortion and are worried about drug use.
The couple, both natives of Greene County, learned about the candidates through advertisements on television and social media, as well as mailings that outlined opposing candidates’ positions. Maddich’s wife added that her religious views also shaped who she voted for.
While supervising their toddler, who wore a Spider-Man costume in the backseat of their car, the pair reflected on wars taking place far from home and the local effects of drug use. Jason’s son is currently serving in the military and is stationed in Germany.
They say they recently spotted a syringe in the middle of Jefferson Road before a homecoming parade, and that ambulances frequent their streets — signs of the ongoing drug problem, they say.
“If in fact it is true that a candidate wants to let criminals out, that’s a problem,” Maddich’s wife said, referring to Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman.
(As a member of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, Fetterman has supported the release of certain people serving mandatory life without parole.)
“That’s not going to help the drugs. It’s not going to help the gun situation. It’s only going to backfire.” —Alexis Yoder, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
What’s motivating voters in rural Clearfield County
At a precinct just behind a fire station in DuBois, Clearfield County, many people said they didn’t have time to say what motivated them to vote. Others said they didn’t want to speak with journalists.
Don Karoleski, 66, is retired but used to work in construction and drive trucks. A union member, he said he was a Democrat for 35 years because the party stood up for working people. Now, he feels the party has gotten away from that.
He started to vote for Republican candidates because of government spending, increased taxes, and energy issues.
“They should have a better system for immigration,” he added.
Bryan Hand, 56, and Steve Hand, 62, came out to vote together. Steve works in the kitchen of the local nursing home. He said inflation was an important issue for him, and that he hoped the parties could work together more.
Bryan said he feels the Democrats have turned communist. “Wokeness is nonsense. If you don’t agree with them, you’re called racist,” he said. —Ashad Hajela, Spotlight PA
‘Commission security’ group barred from polling locations in Allegheny County
“The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas today barred a group of residents who billed themselves as ‘commission security’ from entering any polling location in the county. County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the people were going to polling places earlier today indicating they were poll security.”
A handful of voter intimidation cases in Chester County
Less than 10% of Chester County’s mail votes had been tabulated as of Tuesday afternoon, a county spokesperson said.
As of 3:30 p.m., roughly 4,000 mail ballots had been tabulated, deputy elections director Stephanie Saitis said. As of Monday, the county had received roughly 60,000 mail and absentee ballots.
“We estimate it won’t be any later than Thursday morning,” said Rebecca Brain, public information officer for Chester County, referring to when the county would finish tabulating all mail ballots.
Brain said mail ballot results would be uploaded to the county website in batches starting after 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
The county did not have an updated figure for how many undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots had been received. Brain said that as of Friday, when 40,000 mail ballots had been returned, just 75 such flawed ballots had been found.
Also unclear is how many mail and absentee ballots had been returned so far on Election Day.
At the county’s central mail ballot counting location in West Chester, three shifts of roughly 40 volunteers each worked to comply with the Act 88 requirement that mail ballots be counted continuously. The workers made use of 10 high-speed envelope slicers and five high-speed ballot tabulators.
Chester County is also one of just a handful of counties in the state utilizing drop boxes in this year’s election. Election deniers have organized to watch drop box locations here and in other parts of the state.
Brain said that of the 11 drop boxes that have been open over the past two weeks, the county has received three 911 calls related to voter intimidation. Two calls, in Avon Grove and Exton, came in on Oct. 25 related to individuals taking pictures of vehicle license plates or writing down the numbers when voters were dropping off ballots.
Another incident occurred two days later in Kennett Square in which a “confrontation” occurred at a drop box.
The status of investigations into the three incidents was not immediately clear Tuesday afternoon. —Carter Walker, Votebeat
Penn State students concerned about reproductive rights, economy
Penn State’s flagship campus bustles as students operate booths for their preferred candidates and university officials answer questions about where students are registered to vote.
The Oz, Shapiro, and Fetterman campaigns all have a presence today in the HUB, the center of student life at Penn State. Paul Takac, the Democratic nominee for state House District 82, is on site to talk to voters and answer questions.
Carter Hensley, 18, said reproductive rights and inflation are his top issues this election. The freshman said reproductive rights go beyond access to abortion and he doesn’t want to see women’s health care cut back.
Inflation was not something Hensley thought about as a high school student, he said. But a few economics and political science classes at University Park put the issue on his radar.
University students are a large but complicated voting bloc for candidates. Many students are registered in their home districts or may not know which precinct their campus address is in.
Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, and John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, were on campus last week to promote their campaigns, as well as down-ballot Democrats. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, also held a campaign event in State College last week.
PSU Votes, a nonpartisan university-run organization, had a table on-site today to answer student questions, as well as hand out chocolate chip cookies, stickers, water bottles, and pens.
Tim Balliett, the director of the university’s Center for Character, Conscience, & Public Purpose, said students who request mail-in ballots often have questions about where to drop the ballot off. For the ballot to count, state law requires it be at the county election office by 8 p.m. today. — Wyatt Massey, Spotlight PA
A judge did not change Pennsylvania’s ballot deadline for the 2022 election
A judge in Pennsylvania did not order local officials to count mail ballots received six days after Election Day, contrary to viral misinformation on Twitter claiming so.
No such order adjusting the ballot deadline from Nov. 8 to Nov. 14 has been issued by a judge in Pennsylvania, nor has such a case been brought. The deadline remains 8 p.m. today, for all mail-in and in-person ballots.
A post making the claim Tuesday came from a user named Kyle Becker, whose profile says he is a journalist who has worked for Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News. —Carter Walker, Votebeat
Abortion, candidate enthusiasm motivate voters in Jim Thorpe
When she arrived at her local polling place in the early afternoon, Jennifer Dages, 61, sat under the sun handing out information in support of the Republican Party.
Hours later, she’s bundled up and explaining why she got more involved in this election. Two words: Doug Mastriano.
“I love his emphasis on freedom and liberty,” said Dages. “I feel like he’s really working to make government smaller and have people make their own decisions.”
She began to follow Mastriano during the pandemic, when he streamed on Facebook daily. His dispatches made Dages feel represented, she said. He was one of the few politicians who echoed her own perspectives on the lockdown and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Other voters in Carbon County cited abortion as their motivating issue.
Leanne Whitehead, a speech pathologist, came to the polling place to support candidates who would defend Roe.
“The rights of women are key. I have two daughters myself. I’ve never feared more for what’s to come. The risks of pregnancy might require an abortion, and that’s not guaranteed [anymore],” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said she typically votes Democratic down the ballot but has voted for both parties in the past. Her concern about the overturning of Roe made candidate selection easy this year.
She was appalled at the treatment of John Fetterman after the recent debate, noting that she’s worked with patients with aphasia after strokes. She found Fetterman’s decision to take the stage to be brave.
Susan Hydro, a teacher’s assistant, opposes abortion.
“I’m pro-life. That gets me out to vote every time,” said Hydro.
Hydro, who’s lived in Jim Thorpe her entire life, says all other issues are secondary to limiting abortion access. While she cares about living costs, conservation, and the economy, she said abortion is the primary factor she considers when choosing a candidate.
Other voters cited party allegiance rather than specific issues.
Bob McHale, a lab technician from Nesquehonning, said he voted for Republicans down the ballot but he’s not convinced that he’ll be pleased with the work they do. He’s split his ticket in the past but he believes in the Republican platform on the economy, lowering fuel prices, and illegal immigration.
“I don’t know who’s ideal. I could have voted wrong, time will tell,” said McHale. “I basically voted more for party than person.”
Tonia McCole said she’s been registered as a Democrat since she started voting. McCole came to the polling place with her daughter after school hours. It was her first time voting in Jim Thorpe after moving from Nesquehonning last year to be closer to her parents.
She’s split her ticket in the past, but this election cycle she voted for Democratic candidates down the ballot. McCole said that Fettermand and Shapiro had more experience in government than their opponents. She added that abortion access was another major factor that affected her vote. —Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA
What to know about the election lawsuits filed so far
As ballots are cast and tallied across Pennsylvania, important election developments are also happening concurrently in state and federal courts.
Two cases have already affected today’s process. Philadelphia commissioners this morning acquiesced to a GOP lawsuit and agreed to reinstate a time-consuming double-check for double votes, which means the city’s results will take longer.
And in Luzerne County, a judge extended polling place hours until 10 p.m. after a paper shortage dramatically slowed voting in three dozen precincts.
Other lawsuits are still active.
Two different groups have filed suit in federal court, challenging a state Supreme Court ruling that held undated and misdated mail ballots should not be counted in this year’s election. One suit came Monday from U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman’s campaign, as well as the Democratic Congressional and Senate Campaign Committees and individual voters.
Another was filed last week by Pennsylvania’s NAACP, League of Women Voters, and other groups.
Both suits argue the state Supreme Court’s decision violated federal civil rights law — an argument that previously saw success in federal court before the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the decision on procedural grounds.
The U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Western District is holding a joint conference on both cases Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
Other challenges have already been knocked down. In Monroe County, the county GOP committee sued late last week to bar election workers from curing flawed ballots — which the state Supreme Court has held that counties are allowed to do — saying that election workers were “tampering” with ballots.
A Monroe County Common Pleas judge held Monday that he did not “find that there was fraud involved or that there was political partisanship undertaken by [county] staff,” and denied the injunction. So far, there has been no appeal. —Katie Meyer, Spotlight PA
Pittsburgh churchgoer considers election ‘crossroads moment’
Pam, 61, who asked not to use her last name because of privacy concerns, voted by mail so she could work the polls at her church on Election Day.
When Pam is not an election worker, she works with young people at Rodman Street Baptist Church, also today’s polling place. She encourages them to vote and reminds them that it’s a right for which their ancestors fought.
Voting is necessary to prevent the country from moving backwards, Pam said. She is concerned that democracy might be in jeopardy.
Her assistant, Verona Griffin, echoed these sentiments, noting the threat election deniers pose to the state of our country beyond just politics.
“If we want to keep the wrong people out of office, we better get out there and vote,” Griffin said.
Pam thinks abortion is a pivotal issue, and says that the people chosen in this election will shape other rights, not just reproductive ones.
“If we let people take that right away, what else will they try to take away?” Pam said.
Pam, who has previously voted by mail, said it is great for voter access, especially for people who are not able to make it to the polls — older adults, and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
Pam says her sister, who has a disability, chose to vote by mail.
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, nationwide turnout among people with disabilities went from 16 million in 2016 to 17.7 million in 2020, following expansions to mail-in ballot access. —Abigail Chachoute, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
The issues motivating State College residents and Penn State students
Dozens of voters cast their ballots at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in State College in the early afternoon.
The issues bringing them to the booth ranged from economic concerns to abortion access to protecting voting rights.
Alby Woodruff, 53, said the economy and the rising costs of basic goods brought her to the polls. The costs of rent, groceries, and health care are all up, she said. Despite being a registered Republican, Woodruff found Democratic candidates this year to be more straightforward in their plans, she said.
This election, Woodruff said she voted straight Democrat, a first as far as she could remember. She believes there are other voters like her.
“Some of the Republicans, they just want to get rid of everything, and I didn’t want to do that,” Woodruff said. “So I voted the other way.”
The future of the American economy was on Will Kahn’s mind in the days leading up to Nov. 8. With graduation on the horizon, the senior at Penn State is looking for jobs.
Vetting candidates through this lens was more difficult than expected, the 22-year-old said. He read past interviews and tried to gather “correct information” from both sides to avoid bias, he told Spotlight PA.
“It was a tedious process but it was worth it to make myself more informed,” Kahn added.
Having voted in the 2020 presidential election, Kahn said he was glad this election, while still controversial, felt more normal.
The precinct in downtown State College is in an area that in 2020 voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, with roughly half of Biden’s votes here coming from absentee or mail ballots, according to data from the Centre County Elections office.
Ben Cardenas, 35, was motivated to vote Tuesday to “preserve democracy,” he said. Republicans have sowed doubts about the election results, he said, which worries him.
The State College resident wondered whether someone else should have run for the U.S. Senate seat being pursued by Democrat John Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke. But his friends, who saw Fetterman in town last week, told Cardenas the candidate sounded fine despite his shaky debate performance a few weeks ago.
Justin Segal, a 20-year-old Penn State student, left the polling location unsure whether his vote will be counted. He is registered in Montgomery County and said he requested a mail ballot weeks ago.
The ballot arrived yesterday, Segal said, but the drop box on campus was closed. He came to the polling location to see what could be done but said he wants to do more research. —Wyatt Massey, Spotlight PA
What redistricting may mean for one Harrisburg suburb
Before this year’s redistricting cycle, the state House district that encompassed Susquehanna Township — a diverse, middle-income suburb of Harrisburg — was lumped in with rural Lebanon County, creating a red-leaning district despite the area’s Democratic voting patterns.
Under the new map, the township anchors its own blue-leaning district, which appears likely to flip from Republicans.
This district was designed to have a critical mass of Black and brown voters in hopes of encouraging new, diverse faces in the legislature.
Thomas Jordan, a 29-year-old consultant, is a neighbor of the Democratic legislative candidate, Justin Fleming.
Jordan, who is Black, said voting for Fleming is one of the main reasons he turned out to vote Tuesday.
The Harrisburg area has a large Black population, Jordan noted, and the increased representation is good. But beyond Fleming’s identity, Jordan said his neighbor is “an open-minded person who can represent all citizens.”
Jordan is open-minded himself. A registered independent, he wants candidates who support small businesses, particularly Black-owned ones hurt by the pandemic. He also wants less lip service to the community from the Democratic Party and more concrete gains on issues like criminal justice reform.
Black men, in particular, Jordan said, “don’t get praised when we do vote overwhelmingly Democratic. And if we don’t vote Democrat, we’re being used.”
That being said, Jordan still will vote for the party when it makes sense to. He backed Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the governor’s race because Republican candidate Doug Mastriano seems too extreme.
In the U.S. Senate race, Jordan said he voted for the Libertarian candidate Erik Gerhardt. He doubted Republican Mehmet Oz’s authenticity and was worried about Democrat John Fetterman’s health.
Jordan wasn’t the only ticket splitter. Darrian Collevechio, a 28-year-old marketing and sales worker, lives just a few blocks away from the elementary school being used as a polling place. She’s drawn to vote by a mix of economic and social issues, including inflation concerns and support for women’s reproductive health care.
A registered Republican, Collevechio said she split her ticket — something she’s done more in recent years — but declined to elaborate on her exact choices.
“I’m pretty middle on everything,” she said. —Stephen Caruso, Spotlight PA
In northern Chester County, turnout outpaces expectations
Grain silos dot the northern tip of Chester County, where suburbs give way to farmland and signs supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano appear in stronger numbers.
South Coventry Township voted for Donald Trump in November 2020, but gave the former president less support than in 2016, when he won the precinct by 10 percentage points.
At Owen J. Roberts Middle School, a pick-up truck decked in “TRUMP 2020″ decals sat in the parking lot. Voters trickled in and out of the middle school gym, flanked by volunteers for both Democratic state Sen. Katie Muth and the local Republican Party.
Mark Wolfrey, a member of the county Republican central committee, said turnout outpaced his expectations by mid-afternoon, when close to 700 voters had cast ballots.
One of them, Charlene Harrington, voted because of her stance on abortion.
“I can understand how people feel about things, but it’s a life,” she said. “It’s murder.”
Harrington has always voted. “That’s my privilege as an American,” she said.
She declined to say who she voted for but said her faith as a born-again Christian guided her.
As to whether she will trust the results of the election: “We hope!” —Danielle Ohl, Spotlight PA
Luzerne County polling places will be open until 10 p.m.
Polling places in Luzerne County will remain open until 10 p.m. because some locations ran out of paper.
BREAKING: Luzerne County judge orders county polling locations to stay open until 10pm. This comes after some precincts started running out of paper this morning.https://t.co/PQMjCPXTv5— Jon Meyer (@JonMeyerWNEP) November 8, 2022
‘I vote Republican because they mimic my values’
Linda Coffin and her husband Jeff came to their local fire station in Lehigh County just after lunch to vote, but a glitch occurred when Linda tried to scan her ballot: The ballot of the person who voted before her came out instead.
Coffin, 65, said her vote was accepted, but she was concerned about the vote of the person before her.
“I was so excited to vote and then that happened,” said Coffin. “People should vote in-person unless they’re in the military or away for work.”
Coffin said she voted for Republican candidates down the ballot and always has. She didn’t consider any candidate perfect, but preferred the Republican platform. She originally “wasn’t thrilled” with former President Donald Trump, she said, but changed her mind after seeing him in office.
“All politicians can talk a good game, but anything’s better than the other side,” said Coffin. “I vote Republican because they mimic my values. I don’t know that any Democrat matches my values.”
She said her top priorities were the economy, crime, and gas prices. She also said she is “against abortion.” Coffin used to work in a nursing home until she was fired for refusing to take a COVID-19 vaccine. She said that after the 2020 election, she stopped watching the news because she found it to be too biased against the former president.
For Jeff Hartpence, there was no perfect candidate. He said he gravitated toward the candidates who aired the fewest negative ads, rather than voting based on issues. He said he voted for Democrat John Fetterman for U.S. Senate, but said he forgot who he voted for in the gubernatorial race.
”I really didn’t like any of them but I had to vote for somebody,” said Hartpence. —Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA
Erie poll worker sees Little Italy community grow apart
St. Paul’s Catholic Church sits between rows of small, distinctive townhouses with touches of the Erie neighborhood’s history painted on fences and sides of buildings. From the church parking lot, where most voters park, a mural reminds passersby that we’re in “The Heart of Little Italy.”
St. Paul’s is the polling station for a large area, but poll worker Maria Beckwith had only seen 45 people vote Tuesday morning — a far cry from the civic engagement her community once had. She said the polling center will be “lucky” to see 500 people turn up by the end of the day.
Beckwith said she wishes her center had to stay open past 8 p.m. to accommodate all the voters waiting in line rather than hoping people come in out of boredom.
Beckwith, 35, has lived in Little Italy for “99%” of her life. During that time, the Little Italy Beckwith knew was free of crime and voting was “huge” for high schoolers. Now, she said she hardly sees young people turn up to vote.
“When I turned 18, my god mom brought me my first voter registration,” she said, sharing further that helping family members get registered to vote is a bit of a tradition in her home. “My sister graduated a few years ago and she had no idea what any of it was about.” So, Beckwith guided her.
Beckwith sees this as a once tight-knit community growing apart and turning into a neighborhood marked by break-ins and “random” shootings. As much as Beckwith wants to see change in this area, to her, crime will only persist if the community doesn’t step up and vote.
“When I first started [working the polls], we used to be extremely busy,” she said. “But in this general area, people just don’t care. And that’s why the city’s going to hell.”
A long-time poll worker, Beckwith said she’s seen a steady decline in voter turnout and fears voting offices might become a thing of the past.
Beckwith said she wishes people would realize their vote matters on a larger scale than just presidential elections. To her, voting the right people into the Oval Office starts with voting the right people into state offices. And it’s not just longtime Erie residents whose votes matter to Beckwith, but also the refugees seeking housing here.
“Little Italy is made up of a decent population of young people,” she said. “Now, it’s more refugees because we have more housing. They need to understand you’re a part of the state, you’re a part of the city. You still have the right to vote. You’re an American citizen.”
Voting is more than a political act to Beckwith, and she hopes the community finds that too.
After working the polls for 10 years, she says she’s learned to recognize some names and faces and often catches up with residents. Between herself, her grandmother, godmother, mother, and niece working the polls and the strong relationships they’ve all developed with consistent voters, Beckwith said she considers her polling place very “family-oriented” and wants it to stay that way.
“People do come in to see us and we try to encourage them to bring their people,” she says. —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Supporting candidates backed by Trump
Robert Treat, 57, is a Republican who lives on the western end of Cumberland County. Far from the denser suburban towns on the eastern side — which have helped make the county the fastest growing in Pennsylvania — his newly adopted town of Newville reminds him of “the old way of life.”
“Work hard, go to church, know your neighbors,” said Treat, who two years ago moved to this small town of just under 1,400 residents sandwiched between rolling hills and farmland. “We stand up for each other here.”
Preserving that way of life is paramount for Treat, who believes people have gotten away from fundamental American values, chief among them, being independent, working hard to provide for oneself and a family, and passing those values on to the next generation.
Treat, who owns a tattoo shop in Harrisburg, likes to talk. He talks to his clients, who call him “Red Beard,” because of how he’s colored his facial hair. He knows not everyone will agree with him, but he said it’s important that people engage.
He thinks it’s key for American politicians to refocus their efforts on problems facing the United States, and less time trying to fix those in other countries. Fix the border with Mexico. Stop relying on foreign oil.
He doesn’t like it when people feel entitled, or spend years accepting “handouts” from the government.
And he doesn’t care what color you are, what religion you believe in, or who you love, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as you are standing, he said, “on your own two feet.”
“You have to get your hustle on,” he said. “Hard. Damn. Work.”
Treat voted for former President Donald Trump both times he ran — and will vote for him again if he decides to run in 2024. Treat will also vote for candidates the former president supports.
It was among the reasons he voted Tuesday for Republicans in the state’s two marquee races: Mehmet Oz, who is running for U.S. Senate, and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, running for governor.
But, he noted, his vote for Oz was really a vote for “the lesser of two evils.”
“I really don’t like either one of them,” he said of Oz, and his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
He also chose Mastriano for governor over Democrat Josh Shapiro. Abortion — and Mastriano’s opposition to it — was key in that decision. Life, he said, should be the winner in that argument.
But above all, hanging on to the “American way of life” should be the priority.
“I don’t want the life I grew up with to fade away,” he said, “and I will fight to the last breath to defend my way of life.” —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
What’s motivating voters in one Philadelphia suburb
The sun beamed on a clear day in Chester County, a reliably Democratic suburb of Philadelphia.
Contending with both the strong sun and crisp breeze, voters dressed in winter coats and flip-flops alike approached the Phoenixville Public Library to cast votes in person or use the drop box parked out front.
Phoenixville, a former iron town that’s rebounded in recent years, is a dark blue dot among
County’s more moderate exurbs. Voters this year will cast ballots in a closely watched legislative race between Republican state Rep. Tim Hennessey, who has served in the legislature for 30 years, and small business owner Paul Friel, a Democrat whose populist ad campaigns have targeted the district’s moderate voters.
Jen Schaefer, 32, voted for Friel as well as every other Democrat on the ballot, she said.
“It’s important,” she said. “I’m concerned about women’s rights, educational issues.”
Schaefer, a mother of two who has lived in town for five years, chose to vote via drop box, something she and her family started doing during the pandemic.
Three Chester County employees in bright orange vests stood sentry over the red, white, and blue drop box and reminded voters to sign and date their ballots. A white camera mounted on top of the box also watched the voters.
As Schaefer walked away, the county workers handed her a yellow slip of paper outlining the rules for using the drop box and the consequences of breaking them: “Failure to comply with the official rules can result in a referral to the District Attorney’s Office.”
Directly down Main Street, behind the First Presbyterian Church, Mark and Rosalind Zaczkiewicz cast their ballots in person.
“We always vote, but the biggest issue this year is the economy,” said Mark, 52.
“For me, it’s voter rights,” said Rosalind, 56, who along with her husband voted for all Democrats.
So did Otis Jones, 64, who has lived in Phoenixville for five years.
“You need to vote,” he said. “You need to have your voice heard. I’m here to make sure the people get what they want.”
Jones said he mostly voted Democrat because “they’re looking out for the people.”
“Republicans say they are but,” Jones trailed off. He shrugged and walked back toward Main Street. —Danielle Ohl, Spotlight PA
‘Everything the Republicans are talking about, I don’t like’
Charles Barry Cox, 68 of Carmichaels in Greene County, says he voted for Democrats today.
“I can tell you who I voted for. I’m not ashamed,” he said.
He voted for gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman, and state House hopeful Doug Mason. He says Bud Cook, elected in November 2016 to serve the people of the 49th District, has nothing to show for all of his years in office. “He’s never brought any legislation to the board,” Cox said.
Cox doesn’t agree with any of the changes the Republican Party is aiming to implement to abortion access, Social Security, and Medicare, though he thinks abortion should only be accessible under certain circumstances.
“I believe, not in abortion, but — when there is rape, incest, a mother’s life, you have to,” he said.
Cox said he can see Greene County shifting from Democratic to Republican. Everyone just listens to what is on TV, he said.
“This country is going to hell if it goes all red,” he said. —Valeria Quinones of the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
The room where it happens (in Lehigh County)
On a typical Tuesday, Liliana Delgado can be found at William Allen High School where she’s a senior. But today, Delgado was on the bottom floor of the Lehigh County Government Center sorting through ballots.
Delgado was one of the dozens of students who volunteered to become poll workers or ballot counters for the election.
Her job is to take the ballots out of their envelopes. She described seeing each person’s vote in her own hands as “cool.” Alex Sierra, an employee of the Government Center, came to Delgado’s school as a part of an outreach program to get students involved in their election process and local government.
“[Sierra] was talking about when people think about voting, they think about older people,” Delgado said. “But we want them to think about younger people and look to the future.”
Delgado, who will be joining the Marines Corps at the end of her senior year, said the experience has only deepened her interest in the election process.
Working alongside Delgado is Tim Benyo, Lehigh County’s election director. Though the latest directives for mail ballots came just days before Nov. 8, county election directors across the state have been preparing for months, and anticipated changes at the eleventh hour.
“For us, it’s just more work to be last-minute and to have a whole new process added,” said Benyo. “We prepare for months and to have a change at the last minute, it invites errors.”
Just a few weeks before the election, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered election administrators to hold back on counting mail ballots that are undated or misdated and separate them. The high court also issued guidance as to what counted as an incorrectly dated mail ballot only days before the election.
Benyo said the policy changes resulted in more voters coming in to fix ballots errors. This limits the amount of space available for ballot counters to work. Luckily, the county was able to purchase an electronic ballot sorter that cuts down on time.
Alongside the workers, there were also eight observers in the ballot-counting room. They represented different candidates and parties: GOP nominees Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz, Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, and the local Republican and Democratic parties.
Drummond Taylor of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party said he arrived at 6:45 a.m. and expects to stay until all the ballots are counted. He’s been serving as a liaison between county election officials and volunteers located at polling places.
“I’ve got nothing but faith,” said Taylor about the ballot-processing mechanisms. —Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA
A lifetime of tradition in Greene County
A longtime member of the United Methodist women’s organization, Carol Modrick hosts the annual Election Day dinner for adults and children in Carmichaels, Greene County
Modrick has attended and volunteered to help organize the dinner — with the same menu every year — since the 1950s. She remembers her first dinner well; she baked her first pie for the event.
“I would call it a service to the community,” said Modrick, 82, who cast her vote before joining the other volunteers.
She said every woman in the organization has made it a tradition to go out and vote and then volunteer to work the dinner. The dinner this year is across the street from her polling place, which had been moved to the rear of the local florist shop.
Modrick said she has concerns about mail ballots, recalling an earlier incident during the COVID-19 pandemic when her son didn’t receive a check she had mailed him.
She voted by mail once while traveling, but she doesn’t want to do it again and said no one should unless they truly have no other choice.
“I would have to be desperate to do that,” she said.
With the retirement of longtime Democratic state Rep. Pam Snyder, Modrick said she is looking for honesty in the official who replaces her.
“I am so tired of not being able to trust our politicians,” Modrick said. “But we pray for them anyhow. We pray for them all…We pray for our leaders.” —Valeria Quinones of the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Voters guided by faith in Dauphin County
While Harrisburg and its expanding suburbs define the southern half of Dauphin County, another world lies north of Blue Mountain.
Tucked into valleys between mountain ridges, the area hosts grazing farm animals and rolling fields. Red barns display “Jesus Loves You” in white letters, while roadside signs advertise bottomless election night pork and sauerkraut.
Faith is important to many of the voters in these rural, Republican precincts, such as Rodney Maus, a 62-year-old retired Teamster.
He came to vote in Halifax decked out head to toe in camo, and said his faith guided his votes for GOP candidates. Maus, who studies the Bible privately, said the state’s education system is “smash broke.”
“I’m interested in reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Maus said. “We’ll leave the other stuff up to parents, God, and the Bible.”
A judge of elections said turnout was high in the precinct. Up the road in Elizabethville, a small borough with one polling place in a Lutheran church, turnout was a bit slower as of midday.
Voters here didn’t uniformly cite their faith for their electoral decisions.
Kevin Pringle, a 44-year-old customer service worker and transplant from Alaska, said he voted for a straight Republican ticket out of concerns about the economy and crime.
However, he hopes that the country can become less divided in the future.
“There’s been so much division,” Pringle said, “and the media has been feeding those flames.” —Stephen Caruso, Spotlight PA
Voting for the ‘lesser of evils’ in Carlisle
When Carlisle resident Johnna Palm first registered to vote in the early 1990s, she said “the level of vitriol and meanness had not infected the political system as it has now.”
These days, Palm, 57, a registered independent, said she spends more time voting against someone than for a particular candidate.
Though she did not disclose who she voted for as she emerged from her polling place about a mile from Carlisle’s quaint downtown strip, she said hers was “definitely a ballot cast for the lesser of evils.”
And that, said Palm, a non-profit grant writer, is what voting has become to her: “choosing the lesser of two evils.”
She recoils against today’s extremism and laments that moderation — on both sides of the political aisle — is a rarity.
Among the issues that drove her to the polls this year was abortion. She doesn’t believe in it, she said, but she also doesn’t believe it should be legislated.
“The legality does not change the existence of abortion, just its safety,” said Palm. “Abortion has existed as long as there have been unexpected, unplanned, or unwanted pregnancies — and those existed before the law.”
She added: “I’m still waiting for the day they tell me women can’t vote.”
Asked about the U.S. Senate race, she spoke generally at first, saying she does not appreciate when a candidate changes residence for political reasons (Mehmet Oz, the Republican running for U.S. Senate, only recently bought a house in Pennsylvania after living in New Jersey for years, which quickly became an issue in the campaign).
“I don’t care which party you’re in, if you aren’t a resident, you can’t represent me,” said Palm. “That was the point of the Revolution.”
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democrat running against Oz, on the other hand, is a committed Pennsylvanian — but she questions his level of experience for the job. She also believes he has a tendency to work outside the system, which can ultimately work against a candidate.
“Games have rules, including government,” she said. —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
Support for women drives Pittsburgh voter to the polls
Yvonne Luckey, 54, has been a poll worker at the YWCA in Homewood for 12 years. She initially did it just to get out of the house, but she enjoys being involved in politics.
Luckey’s morning shift saw sparse turnout, but she expects things to pick up toward the early afternoon.
While working, Luckey wore her La’Tasha Mayes pins. Mayes is the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania’s 24th state House District.
“I’m all about women in power,” Luckey said. “Women of color, women not of color.”
Luckey considers abortion a lead issue, and notes that she especially disagrees with Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, who has likened it to murder.
“If a child gets raped or molested and they get pregnant, yeah you’re going to abort it,” Luckey said. “You should have that right to abort it. — Abigail Chachoute, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Greene County couple casts final votes in Pa.
For the last time before moving out of state, Arthur and Rebekah Giusti cast their votes in the back of Magic Moments, a florist in Carmichaels.
The Giustis, who have lived in the small Greene County town for eight years, plan on moving to Michigan. The local economy, they both said, is “one of the biggest factors” for their departure.
“We’re just not happy,” Rebekah said. “Even if there is progress, it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Arthur said he votes every year and voted for former President Donald Trump twice. In the U.S. Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, the Giustis made clear their support of the latter candidate.
“Just hoping that Oz comes in and we have a whole shift in the environment in the Senate,” Rebekah said.
However, neither believe either candidate can erase the ongoing drug epidemic gripping Carmichaels. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Greene County experienced 46 drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017. Pennsylvania saw a 19.1% increase in overdose deaths in 2020, the CDC said. And, last year, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, 5,168 Pennsylvanians died from overdoses.
Greene County holds a reputation of being a poor region with an economy “worse than most places,” according to Arthur. “I don’t know if Oz or Fetterman or any of them could change the mentality of this county and the mentality is that if you’re not working, then you do drugs.”
Rebekah added that residents with that mentality rely on the system and get more benefits than middle-class workers but she lacks consistent work opportunities in the small town she’s called home for most of her life.
A licensed practical nurse and a former United States Postal Service employee, Rebekah said the pair shouldn’t be struggling to get by in a place like Carmichaels, but that’s been their reality for the last eight years.
A Pittsburgh native, Arthur worked for 41 years in the railroad industry because of the good retirement plan, but he doesn’t see the area he currently resides in changing rapidly.
“I pay more in health care than most of them pay in rent,” Arthur said. “I want out of here.”
As for the future, Rebekah looks forward to returning to Michigan, where she lived for over 20 years before returning to her hometown. She believes there will be more job opportunities as well as an increase in shopping locations with a lower cost of living.
Arthur looks forward to fishing on Lake Erie and shared the same excitement as his wife for job opportunities. —Alexis Yoder, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
A slower count expected in Philadelphia
A last-minute change to Philadelphia’s vote-counting plan means that Pennsylvania’s largest, most heavily Democratic county will take longer than it originally anticipated to finish tabulating ballots.
Philadelphia officials had initially projected that they would be mostly finished counting ballots by Wednesday morning. It was an important prediction. The incorrect idea that a slow vote count means something nefarious is going on is common in right-wing political circles and is frequently used to cast doubt on election results in places like Philly.
But now, some tens of thousands of mail ballots still left to count on Tuesday night will need to be counted more slowly through the week, according to The Inquirer.
That’s not a sign that anything is wrong with the count — just that election workers are conducting an extra, time-consuming check for double votes.
That check is known as poll book reconciliation — a process by which poll workers scan poll book pages into the state’s voter registry to check in-person votes against mail votes. All counties do this eventually, but for the past few years, Philadelphia has been one of the only counties to conduct the check during its initial vote count.
This allowed it to catch double votes that may have slipped through the initial checks that all polling places are required to conduct to make sure nobody votes twice.
Philadelphia’s commissioners had decided to forego that process this year for several reasons. It’s time-consuming, there were no double votes caught by the process in the last three elections, other counties don’t do it, and it involves pausing the count, which commissioners worried could violate a new election law that requires counties to tabulate ballots continuously.
But a conservative group called RITE — Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections — sued the commissioners, arguing poll book reconciliation is necessary. The case went to Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, where a judge ruled that it was too close to the election for the commissioners to change their process, but that they were wrong to get rid of poll book reconciliation. RITE appealed the case to Commonwealth Court.
The morning of Election Day, commissioners backtracked, saying they were reinstating poll book reconciliation because, as GOP City Commissioner Seth Bluestein said, “while we technically won the court case, the decision was written in such a way that we have no choice but to reinstate the process.”
Bluestein added that he wants to “make it very clear” that “when there are conversations that occur later this evening about whether or not Philadelphia has counted all of their ballots, that the reason that some of the ballots will not be counted is that Republican attorneys targeted Philadelphia, and only Philadelphia, and tried to force us to do a procedure that no other county does.”
Shortly after the commissioners announced their decision, RITE issued a statement apparently responding to Bluestein, saying that “if there are delays, only the Commissioners are to blame.” —Katie Meyer, Spotlight PA
A frustrating voting experience in Erie
For years, James Gates and his friend went through the same back door into Second Baptist Church in southeast Erie. When Gates and his friend arrived today, that door was locked, with no signage or any indication that showed voting was taking place in the building.
Gate’s friend was about to leave. He stopped his friend, who refused to be identified, and waited in the parking lot until they saw someone walking into another door, adjacent to the front of the parking lot. There was only a small poster with a black arrow and a yellow background on the side of the “right door.”
“There’s something going on with the voting authority,” Gates said.
To them, the voting location, too, was confusing and frustrating. Their polling location has changed several times in the past few years.
“I missed a year of voting because I went to the school and there was nothing, and nobody tells me that I had come here to this church,” he said. “It’s getting to be really questionable as to whether or not there’s any honesty or integrity involved with voting in Pennsylvania.”
However, Gates, 58, who said he is a disabled veteran and a registered Republican, said he will believe in the election outcome.
“I did ten years in the military, and I learned you have to accept the outcome, you know, and believe that our system will work if it’s allowed to,” he said.
Gate’s friend hopped back into his car to drive back to his office to print a sign, hoping to inform future voters of the right location to vote.
Right before Gates left, a sign that says, “Please note: voting located parking lot front entrance door” was added to the gate. —Alicia Chiang, the NewsLab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Voters say crime, abortion, trust in voting systems motivated them
Standing outside the back door of the Helen S. Faison Arts Academy gym in Homewood in Pittsburgh, Keith McBroom said Election Day has been “a little slow, but it’s still early.”
“Presidential elections, however, are phenomenal,” McBroom said. “People come out for those.”
McBroom — who was wearing a yellow beanie, lanyard, and nametag reading “Judge of Elections”— has held his position for 20 years. Judges of elections are typically in charge of a polling place; they keep track of votes throughout the day and deliver results to the county office after the location closes.
McBroom, who recently spent 19 days in the hospital, said mail ballots have historically been a good alternative for voters who are incapacitated.
A Democrat, McBroom paused when asked if he has ever crossed party lines.
“Sometimes,” he said.
On their way into the Homewood-Brushton YWCA, Christopher Trowery and Stephanie Clemm said they decided to vote in person because they had doubts about mail voting.
“Yesterday, I read that 1,000 people in Allegheny County — their vote didn’t count, so they had to run down there and fix it because the dates were wrong,” Clemm said. “I just don’t trust it.”
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that undated and incorrectly dated mail ballots should not be counted. Allegheny County published a list of voters whose ballots had fatal defects to give them a chance to fix them.
Trowery, pulling on a cigarette, said crime was his biggest motivating issue. Clemm said she was voting “to keep the Republicans out.”
Poll worker Irene Bejide’s main political concerns were summed up in one word: “Everything,” she said, walking briskly past. —Lilly Riddle, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
A new voter comes out for the U.S. Senate race
Tuesday marked the first general election in which 18-year-old Grant Deshishku has voted.
The registered Democrat and Dickinson College student in Carlisle is coming of voting age in what he instinctively knows are polarizing times, when election decisions are not just about the candidates but about issues critical to the future of the country.
For Deshishku, abortion rights is one of those issues — he believes pregnant people should have the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. It is among the many reasons he voted for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for U.S. Senate, he said.
“I’m really here for the U.S. Senate race,” he said, adding that he attended a Fetterman rally in Carlisle last week.
He wishes the campaign had been more about policy, and said he was turned off by ads aired in particular by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.
“The buzzword strategy and alliterations they use — like ‘far-left fraud’ — I really don’t appreciate it,” he said. “It’s not about policy anymore.”
Though he is a Democrat, and supports progressive candidates, he said he’d be willing to split his ticket and vote for a Republican.
One Republican he says he can’t support is former President Donald Trump, whose politics he believes have exacerbated divisions in the country.
Despite Trump’s unfounded claims of rigged elections and unchecked fraud, Deshishku believes in the power of voting, and has enjoyed the process of casting ballots in person.
“It’s the most power we have as citizens,” he said. —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
An Erie resident faces accessibility issues in more ways than one
Getting around southeast Erie isn’t easy these days for Paula Best. Best, 68, has back and knee issues. She arrived at the Second Baptist Church, her polling place, with the help of a cane.
Best always votes in person and said voting by mail wasn’t an option for her — she can’t bend down far enough to reach the mail that slides through her door’s mail slot.
Her polling place also changed which doors voters enter through, which made things harder. Last year’s entrance allowed her to walk up a flat surface with her cane, while this year’s entrance had a set of stairs.
Voting is important to Best, so she made the trip up the stairs anyway and informed others of the change of doors on her way out.
Physical accessibility isn’t the only hurdle Best faced. She said she doesn’t go out often because her neighborhood of 30 years has “gone down a lot.”
“There’s a lot of drugs and there’s a lot of crime,” she said. “And then there’s landlords that don’t take care of their properties around here. They’re just out for the money, they don’t care. And they don’t care about the people that do care around here.”
Best said she doesn’t expect politicians to take an interest in changing southeast Erie anytime soon. Rather, she cast her vote for the same reason she has in years past — for women’s rights.
“I think that women should be allowed to do her own thing — her body and everything,” Best said. —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
What’s important to Allentown voters
Before beginning their workdays, voters in Allentown went to their local library to cast their ballots.
For DonnaMarie Yeager, crime was the most important issue. She voted for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman and criticized Republican Mehmet Oz’s attacks on his health.
“I had a stroke. He had a stroke. It’s not easy to recover,” said Yeager.
Other voters were more concerned about the number of election deniers on their ballots. Bill McGlinn, the interim executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, said that his main litmus test when choosing a candidate was whether they perpetuated false claims of election fraud.
“We have a country that’s being taken over by false prophets,” said McGlinn. “It’s become the normative piece of our political discourse — denial of truth. We’re in really serious trouble.”
McGlinn said he’s voted for candidates from both major parties in the past. He pointed to state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh) as an example of a Republican legislator who lobbied for Allentown but was rejected by his party for views that weren’t radical enough.
In the primary, Browne — who has been in his seat since 2005 — was defeated by newcomer Jarrett Coleman, an airline pilot and recently elected member of the Parkland School Board. Coleman, who beat Browne by only 24 votes, said his platform includes cutting government spending, repealing no-excuse mail ballots, and passing a gift ban for elected officials.
Mark Pinsley, the Democratic candidate for the state Senate seat and Lehigh County’s controller, has listed increasing the minimum wage, ending mass incarceration, and lowering health care costs as priorities.
Stacey Klokocs also regularly splits her ticket, but her primary concern is reducing taxes on the working class and limiting government spending. Klokocs says she’s been working since she was 12 and is concerned about the rising costs of living. She said she looks at “how [candidates] feel about the working class person.”
Klokocs said she cast her ballot in person this year because she feels she has more control. She was worried her ballot might get lost in the mail and wasn’t sure a ballot would come in time.
“For me, it’s all about being involved,” said Klokocs. “My mail only comes once a week, and I was worried was my vote wasn’t going to come in in time.” —Kate Huangpu, Spotlight PA
One Erie resident wants solutions to inflation
Paul Thelen doesn’t trust anyone when it comes to elections.
Over the past several years, Thelen, a disabled resident of Erie, found his Social Security income check stretching thinner and thinner. Now, Thelen says, almost half of it goes towards filling the gas tank in his “pig” of a pickup truck, and the rest toward home repairs and groceries for a family of three.
Thelen lives just a few blocks away from General Teamsters Union Local 397 — where he voted Tuesday — and finds most of his gas goes toward driving his daughter around and visiting family on the west side of town.
“Going to Millcreek is a quarter of a tank,” he said.
Saying only he voted Republican, Thelen hopes to put someone in office who will offer solutions to inflation and strengthen border security. His family hasn’t voted Democrat since John F. Kennedy was in office.
Thelen says he can’t trust anyone, not even the machine counting ballots inside the polling place.
“For all I know, it could be turning my vote Democrat in there,” Thelen said. (Machine malfunctions that lead to “vote flipping” aren’t widespread and aren’t proof of hacking.) “I’d at least like a receipt from it saying I voted.” —Makenzie Christman, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
The mail ballot count continues
Across Pennsylvania, more than 1.4 million people requested to vote by mail. As of Nov. 7, 1.16 million absentee and mail ballots had been returned, according to Department of State data.
Before Election Day, some of the state’s largest counties said it would likely take until Wednesday to finish counting absentee and mail ballots.
In Lancaster County, where more than 41,000 mail and absentee ballots were received as of Monday, officials expect to finish the count by midnight.
Elections director Christa Miller said roughly 25% of those ballots had been opened. As of 10 a.m., approximately 300 voters had dropped off mail ballots Tuesday at the election office as they may do until 8 p.m.
Per an order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the county is not counting but is setting aside undated and incorrectly dated ballots. Miller did not have an estimate of how many of those ballots the county had received. —Carter Walker, Votebeat / Spotlight PA and Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
‘Women belong in all places that decisions are being made’
In Erie’s shivering morning cold, Jasmine Flores, 29, walked out of the Teamster Union Local 397 building after she voted.
“I have to work all day, and I have study sessions for the City Council business, so I had to come and do it early, first thing in the morning, to get it done,” Flores said.
A lifelong Erie resident and a member of the Democratic Party, Flores has been involved in community organizations and activism since 2018. She was elected to Erie’s City Council in January 2022.
Flores said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade motivated her to vote.
“Women belong in all places that decisions are being made. So I had to show up for my sisters who need the ability and access to abortion if they have to have it,” Flores said.
Half Mexican and half Puerto Rican, Flores wants her community members to be informed about the election.
“Being informed on the candidates who are going to be making decisions that impact our lives is really important to me and making sure my community is aware of that,” said Flores. —Alicia Chiang, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Motivated by opposition, not support, in Cumberland County
Joe Neville is a loyal voter because, as he put it Tuesday shortly after the polls opened in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, “if I don’t vote, I can’t complain.”
The 61-year-old retired state worker said he was motivated to come to the polls this year more by candidates and issues he opposes, rather than supports.
Though he would not reveal his ballot choices, he said he believes Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano has expressed “extreme views.” He also said he wasn’t sure what to think of Mehmet Oz’s candidacy for U.S. Senate.
“I have concerns about John Fetterman, but at least he seems like a decent man,” Neville, a registered Republican, said of the Democratic candidate.
Neville said he is not a voter who votes straight party line, and instead frequently splits his ballot. This year was no exception, he said.
Though he makes it a point to stay informed, the sheer volume of campaign literature and political news has been exhausting.
This morning, he said, as he was getting dressed to come to the polls to vote, he had CNN on.
“I said to my wife, I’m sick of this already,” said Neville. —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
A Pittsburgh voter fears losing her rights
In a winter coat with pins for Democratic candidates John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro, Anna Fisher, 45, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon, stood outside the Jewish Community Center on Tuesday morning, thanking people for voting and handing out envelopes.
Born in Ukraine and raised in Russia, Fisher formerly lived in the Soviet Union, where she only got the opportunity to vote in only one free and fair election.
“I really hope that we do not lose the right to vote,” Fisher said.”A lot of people who are running supported the insurrection or they have insurrectionists on their campaign staff, and I really would like to protect democracy, not only to protect the rights we already have but also expand the rights too.”
Fisher realized how many barriers exist for people to exercise their right to vote when doing voter registration for the first time this year.
Working at CMU, Fisher said students who have moved from different dorms and apartments had to change their voter registration address multiple times. She saw how confusing it can get.
“For young people, this is oftentimes their first election and they move to different states, so it can get very confusing how to access and exercise their right to vote,” Fisher said.
Along with issues about access, Fisher had concerns about voter intimidation and mail ballots being thrown out because of simple mistakes. As a mother, she wants her two daughters to have the right to choose.
“Democracy and reproductive rights are my two reasons,” Fisher said. — Abigail Chachoute, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
A Mechanicsburg voter who wants to ‘turn this country around’
Bill Nailor came out early to vote Tuesday because, as he put it, he’s “disgusted with the federal government,” and thinks President Joe Biden is an “idiot.”
The 74-year-old self-described conservative TV junkie lives in Cumberland County in central Pennsylvania and said he voted for GOP candidates down the ballot.
“Anything I can do to turn this country around,” said Nailor, a registered Republican.
A one-time small business owner, Nailor said he voted for Donald Trump both in 2016 and 2020, and believes the last presidential election was stolen. He also believes there is fraud in elections, including this one, though experts have said repeatedly there is no evidence of widespread election fraud.
“The cheating has already begun for sure,” he said as he exited a polling place just off the main street of downtown Mechanicsburg.
A key issue that motivated him to come to the polls: immigration and securing the U.S. border.
He said he never considered voting for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, who he believes was incapacitated by a stroke (Fetterman’s doctors say he is recovering well).
“I’m not big on carpetbagging Oz, but feel he will give us fair representation,” said Nailor of Republican candidate Mehmet Oz.
He said he likes state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor, but is enough of a realist to know that it is unlikely the lawmaker will win. He voted for Mastriano anyway, he said.
Nailor said he never considered voting by mail, because he doesn’t trust the system. Plus, he said, he’s always voted in person: “I’m 74 years old, that’s what you do.” —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
‘Are you aware of the fake Mike Doyle on your ballot today?’
The sun had barely begun to gild the treetops in Squirrel Hill as voters filed into the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh to cast their ballots.
Yael Silk, 43, wearing a T-shirt that read “Jews for Summer Lee,” greeted and directed people as they walked into their polling station.
“Are you aware of the fake Mike Doyle on your ballot today?” Silk, an executive director, asked a couple walking by. She was referencing the Republican candidate for the 12th Congressional District, who has the same name as the retiring Democratic incumbent.
“Having to defend against name trickery is not something that I thought we would be needing to do today,” Silk said. She said Summer Lee, the Democratic candidate, will stand for women’s rights and a “multi-racial democracy.”
“Part of my Jewish identity means I know what it’s like to feel under threat for who we are, and no one should feel that way,” she added.
Mark Roberts, 67, votes in every election and prefers to do it in person.
“I’m really worried about the state of our democracy and the incredible rise of people who don’t care about science and the facts and that sort of stuff,” he said.
Andrew Thompson, 22, said it would be “a crime” not to vote, since he lives a five-minute walk away.
“I think a lot of the Democratic candidates, personally, have a lot more empathy,” the recent graduate said. “But whatever happens, happens.” — Lilly Riddle, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Lifelong Greene County resident cites abortion, need for jobs as reasons to vote
Rosemarie Morehead, a lifelong Greene County resident, said Tuesday morning that her area is sometimes “forgotten.”
Morehead, 54, works at Blueprints, a social services agency that serves 20,000 residents of Greene and Washington Counties as well as West Virginia with 50 programs that address home, financial, and mental health needs. She hopes the redistricting of her state House district helps bring change to the area, which she says needs new jobs and an updated transportation system.
She lives in District 50, which now includes all of Greene County and part of Washington County. Republican candidate and incumbent Bud Cook is facing Democrat Doug Mason.
Through her work in social services, Morehead knows how important bringing new jobs to the area is to decrease the poverty rate.
Morehead, who voted at a polling place in Waynesburg, noted the town’s location off of Interstate 79 as a prime location for an industrial park to bring new jobs to the area.
“We could have used Amazon when nobody wanted it,” Morehead said.
She also said the overturning of Roe v. Wade was an important issue that motivated her to vote because she never thought she’d see it be reversed in her lifetime.
“It’s just unbelievable to me,” Morehead said. “As a woman, I think it’s important for us to vote regardless of what it is.” —Alexis Yoder, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
A split-ticket voter cites economy, abortion as top issues
Julia Broskey, 37, has lived in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania for less than two years. She hails from Pittsburgh and has lived in multiple states, but makes sure to vote most of the time either in-person or by mail.
She left her polling place in Waynesburg around 7:40 a.m. after she voted for candidates from both major parties (she did not name them). Broskey cited the economy, abortion, and the tight gubernatorial race as issues she kept in mind while voting.
Broskey has worked in higher education for her entire life and is currently in a three-year stint at West Virginia University. She called President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt a “hot-button topic,” one in which she takes the opposing view.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Broskey said. “Having worked in education for a long time, there are a lot of choices people have. I just think it’s taking away from those who are working people. I’m sure it’s not a popular opinion of some people in education, but there’s ways you can pay off your loans.”
Broskey said she considers multiple issues when voting in every election because “one issue can come and go.” —Alexis Yoder, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
In Harrisburg: ‘I don’t like the election deniers’
A steady stream of voters flowed in and out of the 11th Ward polling place in Midtown Harrisburg Tuesday morning.
For some, voting was a pit stop before dropping a kid off at school or heading to work. For others, such as Karen Chaney, a 65-year-old nurse, voting was their last stop after working a night shift.
Chaney, a registered Democrat, said she voted a straight ticket for the party. Like many others at this urban polling place, her top issue was protecting voting rights.
“I don’t like the election deniers,” she told Spotlight PA. “I feel like that’s dangerous to democracy.”
Near the top of the Republican ticket this year is gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a state senator who spread false information about voter fraud after the 2020 election and bussed supporters to a Jan. 6, 2021 rally that proceeded the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Saliyma Chapman, a 29-year-old housing counselor, said she wanted to be sure “sane people who actually care for the state and the country” were in charge — “aka, the Democrats.”
She thought about casting a mail ballot this year, but, “I didn’t want it to get lost in the mail.”
The city of Harrisburg is heavily Democratic — it voted 84-14 for Biden in 2020. But it is home to Republicans, including Warren Harden, a law enforcement officer in his 60s.
Harden said he was motivated to vote by “moral issues” such as abortion, which he opposes. He voted for Mastriano.
However, he also cast a ballot for Democratic state Rep. Patty Kim. He declined to say who he voted for in the U.S. Senate race.
“They are both a little twisted,” he said of Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, “so I chose the lesser of the evils.”
As for if he can trust the results, Harden demurred: “Being a Christian, I put that in God’s hands.” —Stephen Caruso, Spotlight PA
GOP nominee for governor Doug Mastriano casts his ballot
A Greene County voter on the Democratic Party: ‘They’re not one of us’
Born and raised in Greene County — located in Pennsylvania’s southwest corner — Barb Stewart, 78, and her husband Ken, 82, have been Republicans all of their adult lives despite growing up Democrats.
Shortly after the polls opened at 7 a.m. in Waynesburg, Barb said the Democratic Party is no longer what she knew it to be growing up, and the Republican Party now stands more for the issues that matter to her most.
“I will not back a party that supports the killing of innocent children,” said Barb, referring to the Democratic Party’s stance on abortion access.
Abortion, however, is not the primary reason she’s a Republican. She believes the Democratic Party no longer cares about the people and doesn’t agree with its policies.
“They’re not one of us anymore,” she said. —Valeria Quinones, the News Lab @ Penn State for Spotlight PA
Candidates for U.S. Senate, governor cast their ballots
Most of the major party candidates for U.S. Senate and governor cast their ballots during the morning rush.
Lisa and I were proud to cast our votes this morning – get out and VOTE, Pennsylvania! pic.twitter.com/N0PxdZ3VOV— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) November 8, 2022
#NOW Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, just cast his ballot at New Hope Baptist Church in Braddock. @JohnFetterman is the former mayor of Braddock. His wife, Gisele, just said “I voted for that guy!” @KDKA pic.twitter.com/TIQCBtQukE— Jessica Guay (@JessicaGuayTV) November 8, 2022
Mail ballot counting going smoothly in Lancaster County after rough primary
Lancaster County’s mail ballot counting operation was humming along smoothly as of 8:30 a.m.
Unlike in the primary — when poll workers had to remark thousands of ballots by hand due to a printing error — ballots opened today were being run through scanners without issue.
“Everything is scanning, everything is going well,” Elections Director Christa Miller told County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, chair of the board of elections.
Roughly two dozen volunteers, overseen by county staff and partisan poll watchers, ensured the number of ballots received from a precinct matched what was recorded, opened the outer and inner envelopes with a high-speed slicer, and flattened out ballots for tabulation machines.
D’Agostino could not provide an estimate of the number of ballots counted so far this morning, but said the county planned to count all ballots received before Tuesday, roughly 41,000, today. Ballots received on Election Day will be counted Wednesday.
He said that the requirement to count continuously, a mandate for counties receiving election grants under Act 88, would not be a major issue for the county as it has had experience with counting continuously in the 2020 election. —Carter Walker, Votebeat / Spotlight PA
Which Pennsylvania counties are ‘curing’ ballots?
Under state law, a person who casts a mail ballot must sign and date a declaration on the outer envelope. Undated ballots have a missing date, but are otherwise turned in on time to county election offices.
Incorrectly dated mail ballots were defined by the high court as those with dates that fall before Sept. 19, 2022, or after Nov. 8, 2022. For absentee ballots, the dates are Aug. 30, 2022, or after Nov. 8, 2022.
Some counties are proactively reaching out to voters about the issues and allowing them to fix their ballots, but others aren’t.
Spotlight PA could not identify a complete list of which of the 67 counties are “curing” ballots and which aren’t. Reporters found that Chester, Clearfield, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Philadelphia are among those curing ballots.
Cumberland County would not answer the question, citing ongoing litigation. Centre and Dauphin Counties are not curing ballots.
The state’s top election official said people who think they may have made a mistake should reach out to their county immediately. Even if your county won’t let you fix your mail ballot, you have a right to vote by provisional ballot today. —Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
Philly commissioners vote to reinstate poll book reconciliation, delaying results
“Philadelphia officials voted Tuesday morning to reinstate a process that can catch possible double votes from being counted — and will also slow down their ability to report midterm election results over the next week.
If Pennsylvania’s high-stakes U.S. Senate race is as close as expected, a wait for results out of the state’s largest city is sure to shine a national spotlight on Philadelphia, similar to after the 2020 presidential election.” — Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck, The Inquirer
Shapiro continues to outraise Mastriano in final days of election
In the waning days of the race for Pennsylvania’s top job, Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano have crisscrossed the state to rally supporters and win over undecided voters.
To bolster those efforts, the gubernatorial nominees have collectively raised millions of dollars in eleventh-hour campaign donations to help get their message out.
The candidates reported the donations in campaign finance reports filed daily over the past two weeks, chronicling a trail of last-minute donations.
As he has throughout the campaign, Shapiro has far outraised Mastriano, raking in roughly $2.4 million between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, to Mastriano’s $475,000, records show.
Shapiro’s biggest donors continue to be political action committees run by national Democratic groups, as well as public and private unions. More than $440,000, for instance, came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has spent heavily in Pennsylvania to elect a Democrat in another marquee race: that for U.S. Senate.
Shapiro also received $200,000 from Jeffrey Lurie, who owns the Philadelphia Eagles, and $250,000 from billionaire Thomas Hagen, the board chair of Erie Indemnity Company.
In all, Shapiro has raised an eye-popping $65.2 million since the start of 2021 and spent a record $62.2 million. Compare that to Mastriano, who has raised $6.9 million in that same time frame and spent $5.8 million.
The two men have run vastly different campaigns. Shapiro has inundated the airwaves with campaign ads, while Mastriano has largely appealed to a loyal base, unable to front the cash to keep pace in ad spending.
Among Mastriano’s largest donors over the past two weeks: the political action committee affiliated with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, which contributed $50,000. The PAC run by Mastriano’s running mate, GOP state Rep. Carrie DelRosso, also donated $50,000. —Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA
>>READ MORE: Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
The polls are open
Polls across Pennsylvania opened at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. As long as you are in line to vote by 8 p.m., you are entitled to cast a ballot.
Here’s more of what you need to know to vote today. — Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
‘What do I need to bring with me to vote?’
If this is your first time voting or your first time voting since changing addresses, you’ll need to bring proof of identification. This can include any government-issued ID such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport, a utility bill or bank statement that includes your name and address, or a military or student ID. See the full list of options. — Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
How to report a problem while voting or get voting info
If you need last-minute voting information, you can seek official answers from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling 1-877-VOTESPA. The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition has its own hotline, as well: 866-OUR-VOTE.
If you need to lodge a complaint about something you experience while voting, you can call the state’s hotline (1-877-VOTESPA) or reach the department using this form.
Still preparing to cast your ballot? Read Spotlight PA’s complete coverage at our Election Center 2022 website. — Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
What you need to know before heading to the polls
For those of you heading out to the polls, here’s what you need to know:
- Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Double-check your polling place here.
- In addition to nonpartisan poll workers, you may encounter partisan poll watchers who are sanctioned to observe polling places. Here’s what they can — and can’t — do.
- Have a completed mail ballot? You can still drop it off today by 8 p.m. Some satellite offices and drop boxes will close before then, so make sure to look up your local details.
- Have a mail ballot but want to vote in person? Bring all of the materials with you to your polling place.
- Requested a mail ballot but it never came? You can still vote using a provisional ballot.
- If you are facing a last-minute problem and can’t make it to the polls, you may qualify for an emergency absentee ballot. Read about those here.
Like in 2020, be prepared to exercise patience this week and beyond. Election officials can only begin processing mail and absentee ballots this morning, which means it may take days to report the full results.
Also, beware of mis- and disinformation about mail ballots, voting machines, and more. —Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA
WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.