Competitive Race In Blair County Drove Higher Primary Turnout

May 15, 2018


Although low turnout is generally expected for midterm primary elections, more voters were motivated to go to the polls during Tuesday’s primary in Pennsylvania because of how competitive some races are. 

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 120 ballots were cast at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church in Lemont. Judge of Elections Laurel Zydney said she expected low turnout for this midterm primary, because people may not want to have a party affiliation and there’s a lack of contested races. 

“I think the people who vote in an election like this are ones who - it’s their civic duty and they will vote even if there were no contested elections,” Zydney said.

But, in Blair County, the high level of competitiveness inspired a higher turnout rate. Director of Elections Sarah Seymour said the county had higher turnout than usual. She said the main motivator was the number of candidates on the ballot. 

“We usually don't see as many candidates as we have this year,” Seymour said. 

Blair County is part of the former 9th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Bill Shuster has held the seat since 2001. Shuster announced his retirement earlier this year. His father, Bud Shuster, had the seat before him for 28 years. 

Since Shuster’s announcement, eight Republicans and one Democratic candidate entered their bid for the new 13th district, making it one of the most competitive races in the state.

Seymour said, in 2014, about 26 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats turned out to vote. 

In this primary election in Blair County,  33.47 percent of Republican voters and 18.29 percent of Democrats voted, according to election results from the county’s website.

In Centre County, 18-year-old Nick Banerjee cast his first vote. He said high school students have a lot of opinions about the government; the most important thing is to actually vote. 

“Because you can say all you want, but if you’re not doing anything about it then why are you saying what you want?” Banerjee said.

A Pew Research Center study says Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest population of eligible voters in 2016. 

Being a Millennial, Banerjee said he chose to vote for Governor candidate Paul Mango over Scott Wagner by looking through their websites.

“Mango had the issues so clearly written out. How does he think about immigration, and how he thinks about taxes,” Banerjee said. 

Wagner won the GOP nomination with 44.28 percent of the vote. Mango trailed with 36.91 percent. Wagner will go up against Governor Tom Wolf in the general election.