Voters face few choices at polls today

November 04, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The 75 polling places in Franklin County open at 7 a.m. today, and by the time they close at 8 p.m., voters will have decided who will fill their board of commissioners, other county elected offices, borough council and township supervisor seats.

Voters also will have made their selections in school board races and about the retention of one of Franklin County's four judges.

That does not mean voters will have a lot of choices. Many of the races essentially were decided in the May primary when many candidates won the Republican and Democratic nominations. Other incumbents faced no opposition from either party and a number of offices had no candidates at all from which to choose.


Incumbent county commissioners Cheryl Plummer, a Democrat, and Republicans G. Warren Elliott and Bob Thomas are running for their third four-year terms on the board. Don Richards, chairman of the county's Democratic committee, is running to try and unseat one of the incumbents on the three-member board.

Clerk of Courts William Vandrew, Controller Carol Fix Diller, Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner, District Attorney John F. Nelson, Prothonotary Linda Beard, Register and Recorder Linda Miller and Sheriff Robert B. Wollyung have no opposition.

Races to watch include district justice for the newly-created seventh district in the county. Democrat Douglas J. Furness and Republican Kelly Rock are vying for the position, which covers Guilford and Quincy townships, and the borough of Mont Alto.

Write-in candidacies could make for interesting races in St. Thomas and Quincy townships. Incumbent David C. Ramer, who won both the GOP and Democratic primaries in the spring, is facing a challenge from Frank Stearn in what shapes up as a referendum on a proposed quarry operation in St. Thomas Township.

In Quincy Township, incumbent Kerry Bumbaugh is trying to win a third term as a write-in. He narrowly lost the Republican and Democratic primaries in May to Wilbur "Wib" Sanders.

In Greencastle, Pa., voters will choose between incumbents Don A. Coldsmith, Harold E. Duffey and Harry S. Myers and challenger Jerry Pool for three seats on the borough council. Coldsmith and Duffey won both party nominations, while Pool is a GOP nominee and Myers won the Democratic nomination as a write-in.

In other races, Greene Township Supervisor Glenn O. Shetter faces a challenge from Democrat William "Bill" Cline; Democrat William T. Coble is running against Republican Rick Robinson for a seat on the Montgomery Township Board of Supervisors; Republican Samuel F. Cressler and Democrat Ronald R. Coover are running for a supervisor seat in Southampton Township; and Democrat Donald P. Culbertson and Republican Raymond E. Dunkle are running for supervisor in Fannett Township.

Republicans enjoy a huge advantage in registration over Democrats, according to the Franklin County Voter Registration Office. There are 43,617 registered Republicans, compared to 22,513 Democrats and 8,597 people registered as independents or with smaller political parties.

That could bode ill for Democratic and write-in candidates from the standpoint of straight party voting, if the last similar election in November 1999 is any indication. While 27 percent of GOP voters filled in the straight party option on the ballot then, just 6.4 percent of Democrats chose to vote Democratic across the board, according to Jean Byers, the county's deputy chief clerk.

There are, however, races and ballot referendums that are not as simple as Republican and Democrat.

A decade, ago, Douglas W. Herman, then an assistant public defender for the county, was elected to the bench of the 39th District of the Court of Common Pleas, which covers both Franklin and Fulton counties. Today, voters will decide whether he should be retained. It's strictly a "yes" or "no" vote, as retention elections do not involve opposition candidates.

The same applies to retention votes for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille, Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Del Sole and Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Collins.

The retention elections for judges are on a second separate ballot.

Democrat Max Baer and Republican Joan Orie Melvin are running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a race that will appear on the main ballot. Also on that ballot will be races for three superior court spots. The candidates are Democrats Jack Panella, John J. Driscoll and Seamus McCaffery, and Republicans Grainger Bowman, Susan Gantman and Palmer Dolbin

There also are two court-related state referendums. One would amend the state constitution to bring it in line with the U.S. Constitution, which states an accused person has the right to "meet the witnesses face to face." The current language of the state constitution allows the accused to "be confronted with the witnesses against him."

If approved, the amendment would remove the "face-to-face" language so the General Assembly may pass laws or the state Supreme Court may adopt rules that permit children to testify outside the presence of the accused, for example, on videotape.

The second question, if approved, would allow the General Assembly to enact laws permitting closed-circuit or video testimony by children. That power currently is reserved to the state Supreme Court.

The county board of elections has declared that one polling place, Orrstown Borough Hall, may be inaccessible to the elderly or handicapped individuals because there are half a dozen steps into the building. Voters in Mont Alto, Pa., will report to a new polling place at Wesley Methodist Church, 10 S. Main St., instead of the Mont Alto Youth Center on Penn Street.

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