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Early machine problems plague Blair Twp. voters; early turnout light

By Phil Ray, pray@altoonamirror.com

BLAIR TOWNSHIP (9:30 a.m.) - When Palmer Brown went to vote early Tuesday at the Catfish District of Blair Township, the Reservoir Church, the voting machines were not working.

The only thing that came up when he tried to cast his ballot was "old election data."

Brown was disappointed and concerned because he is a candidate for re-election as township supervisor.

The county's highway garage was notified and as of 8:30 a.m. a worker was dispatched to correct the problem.

The issue of nonfunctional electronic voting machines in a few precincts was about the only problem early morning voters experienced. The weather was spectacular, the sun bright, the air crisp - and unfortunately for election buffs, the lines at the polls were very short.

Election board worker Norman Ritz, helping voters in the Blair County Courthouse precinct, jokingly said,"We need customers."

Turnout appeared to be very light even in county's largest district, Frankstown Third District, with 2,772 voters.

Because there are so many voters in the Frankstown District, including 1,853 Republicans and 670 Democracts, candidates tend to show up there during periods when voters often crowd the polls - early morning, lunchtime, and after work.

The early morning turnout was very light in the Frankstown Township building and at one point featured 18 candidates and two voters.

Candidates were handing out pamphlets and stickers.

Frankstown Township supervisor, George Henry, was handing out "Oh Henry" candy bars.

Dan Roberts, running for Frankstown Township supervisor, also offered candy treats.

There were some voters such as Terry M. Goldstein, a Frankstown Township resident.

Goldstein said the most important primary race to him involved the Republican and Democratic contests for county commissioner.

Voters in the fall will elect a three-member board of commissioners and two of them, Barry Wright, Republican, and Donna D. Gority, Democrat, are running for re-election.

The county's financial problems are a major issue and there is talk of a future reassessment of properties to expand the real estate tax base.

Goldstein said "a lot of issues for our county need to be addressed."

Ted Manna, also one of the few early morning voters, agreed that the commissioners' race was front and center this election.

Voters today will nominate two Republicans and two Democrats for commissioner.

Linda Burns of the county voter registration office said the experts are predicting voter turnout today of about 30 percent, but she thinks it will probably be lower.

This is an "off-year" election with basically local offices up for grabs.

Although hundreds of local seats schools boards, municipal councils and county offices are up for election, fewer voters turn out as compared to a presidential year - which will be next year.

Blair County has 80,670 registered voters including 46,064 Republicans, 26,232 Democrats, 4,885 nonpartisan. 987 Independent, and 1,800 with "no affiliation."

There are a smattering of voters from several other parties including one Anarchist, one American Eagle, 62 Constitution party members, 315 Libertarians, 156 Greens, as well as many others.

In all, the county registration office has 34 separate parties or classifications for voters.

Only a few calls came into the county registration office during the first hour of voting. They were from people wanting to know the location of the voting precinct.

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