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Unprecedented number of write-in votes cast in Pa. Senate race

April 23, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Write-in votes are usually a minor headache for election workers, who have to record them on tally sheets and post them at the precinct before delivering the ballot boxes to the Franklin County Administrative Annex.

Tuesday's primary proved to be a migraine as an unprecedented number of write-in votes were cast for Democratic nomination for the 33rd District seat to the Pennsylvania state Senate.

No Democrats were on the ballot, leaving the nomination open to anyone who could garner at least 500 votes, the minimum required for a Senate nomination under state election law.

At the end of the night, 3,393 write-in votes had been cast for the nomination in Franklin County. Adding in those cast in Adams and York counties, the total came to 6,120.

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The process to determine who won the nomination begins Friday when the official counts begin in those counties, said Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers. The counting is expected to extend into next week, she said.

The winner of the Republican nomination for the Senate seat, former magisterial district justice Rich Alloway, said he was seeking the Democratic nomination, as were the other GOP candidates, Jim Taylor, Catherine A. Cresswell and Bob Curley.

An Adams County Democrat, Bruce Tushingham, had also recently announced a write-in candidacy.

Alloway's win over Taylor was narrow, 334 votes out of more than 27,000 cast for the four candidates. If he does not win the Democratic nomination, he could be facing one of his GOP opponents again this fall.

The flood of write-ins was felt most in Guilford 2, the precinct that's home to Penn National Estates. Byers said 409 write-in votes were cast in the precinct. That included 147 write-ins for the Senate nomination and 101 the 90th District seat held by Republican Todd Rock.

"They said they had excessive write-ins. They ran out of tally sheets," Byers said. County Commissioner David S. Keller and Assistant County Solicitor Mary Beth Shank were dispatched to the precinct with the additional sheets and to help speed along the counting, Byers said.

The vacancies on the Democratic ballot for several races boosted the number of write-ins as the GOP incumbents tried to get the minimum 300 write-in votes needed to secure the other party's nomination.

A total of 736 write-ins were cast for the Democratic nomination for the 90th District seat, according to the complete, but unofficial election results. There were 272 for the 86th district seat in the House, now held by state Rep. Mark Keller, along with 801 in Perry County which makes up the bulk of the district.

In the 89th Distract, there were 667 write-ins in Franklin County. That seat is held by Republican state Rep. Rob Kauffman.

Even in the presidential primary, hundreds of voters decided to write in the names of someone other than the listed candidates. There were 712 Republican write-in votes, almost 4.5 percent, while 299 Democrats, about 2 percent, voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, according to county figures.

Turnout for the primary was 40 percent, the highest since the 1992 presidential primary, according to Election Board figures.

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