Sparse voter turnout projected in Armstrong County
A sparse ballot has Armstrong County officials forecasting a dismal turnout for Tuesday’s elections.
Elections Director Wendy Buzard gave an “optimistic estimate” that 20 to 25 percent of 44,100 registered voters will cast ballots in the elections that feature Republican Gov. Tom Corbett against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, but few other contested races.
“There aren’t that many races on the ballot this time, and two of them are unopposed,” Buzard said. “I don’t think the gubernatorial and congressional races are going to be enough to bring people out.”
Buzard’s forecasted turnout represents a sharp drop in voters compared to the last gubernatorial race in 2010, when 22,734 county voters cast ballots. But in that year, Armstrong County had contested races for the U.S. Senate, House and four state representative seats.
This year, Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City, and Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, are running unopposed to keep their state House seats. In the 55th District that includes only Leechburg in Armstrong County, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Washington Township, is facing off against Brian Panichelle, R-Latrobe. The only county-wide contested race is in the 3rd Congressional District, where Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, is running against Dan Lavallee, D-Cranberry Township.
It’s unusual to see such a low turnout forecasted for a gubernatorial election, said Mary Beth Kuznik, founder and director of VotePA, an organization advocating for voters’ rights.
“Most voters see this as the second-biggest election we have, behind the presidential race,” Kuznik said. “Frankly, gubernatorial and local races affect the day-to-day lives of people more than the national races, but for some reason, people don’t seem to think they’re as important.”
Kuznik said she thinks voters have become disenfranchised with the partisan political system at both the state and national level, which may keep them from voting.
“If someone is tired of the political gridlock, staying home isn’t the way to change it,” Kuznik said. “Every vote matters, so we need to see as many people voting as possible.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].