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Low turnout expected for today's Pa. election

November 08, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Voter turnout for the May 17 primary was less than 22 percent in Franklin County and past history and a lack of compelling races indicates turnout in today's general election also will be low.

The last similar municipal election was in 2001 when the treasurer's office was the only countywide office on the ballot. Turnout then was 25 percent, according to county election records.

Unlike now, the 2001 election featured a contested race for treasurer won by Republican Chris Bender. Today, however, the only name on the ballot for that office is Dave Secor, who defeated Bender in the GOP primary and won the Democratic nomination as a write-in candidate.

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Turnout was a little better in 2003, when voters went to the polls to elect county commissioners and a host of other county, borough, township and school board officials. Turnout then was 28 percent, according to election records.

"There will be pockets where turnout will be higher ... like Chambersburg borough with all the council races. They're going to have a higher turnout," said county Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers.

Overall, Byers predicted turnout will follow the pattern of past off-year elections at about 25 percent. The polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Even with the controversy over pay raises for state legislators and judges, Byers said she did not believe the retention votes for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices Sandra Schultz Newman and Russell M. Nigro and Common Pleas Court Judge John R. Walker will draw extra voters to the polls.

Despite there being few hotly contested races, there will be some new faces in office next year. Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Greencastle will have new mayors in 2006.

Voters in Chambersburg are picking between Republican John A. Redding and Democrat Jason Bitner to succeed Mayor Tom Newcomer. Richard Starliper is unopposed for the mayoral job in Waynesboro to succeed the retiring Louis Barlup and Robert E. Eberly is alone on the ballot in Greencastle to succeed Robert Pensinger.

Primary victories by challengers over incumbents in May also point to some new faces on the boards of supervisors in Washington, Antrim, Quincy and Greene townships. Retirements will mean some changes in other municipal governments.

There are 80,978 registered voters in the county, with 47,793 Republicans, 23,582 Democrats and 9,603 people registered with minor parties or as independents, according to county Voter Registration Office records.

In Fulton County, there are 9,143 registered voters with 5,200 Republicans, 3,287 Democrats and 656 registered as independents or with other parties, according to county Chief Clerk Dick Wible.

As in Franklin County, there are few major contested races in Fulton County. Democrat Peggy Sue Bailey and Republican James H. Stenger are running to succeed retiring Mayor Rudy Mihalick in McConnellsburg, Pa.

Democrat William Shives and Republican Dale W. Garland are running for a seat on the Belfast Township Board of Supervisors and Democrat Robert D. Strait and Republican Thomas L. Robinson are running for a supervisor seat in Bethel Township.

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