Westmoreland voter turnout reaches nearly 60 percent

December 3, 2018 GMT

Long lines at polling precincts throughout Westmoreland County on Tuesday resulted in voter turnout that reached nearly 60 percent, eclipsing typical midterm elections and sparking anticipation for next year’s local elections.

The 59.4 percent turnout reported by the county’s elections bureau was the highest seen in nonpresidential year polling in recent memory, resulting in big wins for Republicans.

GOP candidates won all but one contested race on county ballots in a continuation of voting trends that has seen Republicans solidify their hold on state and federal elected seats in Westmoreland County. While Democrats Tom Wolf and Bob Casey won re-election for governor and U.S. Senate respectively, both lost convincingly in Westmoreland County.

Republican candidates won easily in the county’s two Congressional races and the contested races for state House of Representatives.

“It’s just a matter of figuring out the issues that brought people out to the polls,” Westmoreland County Republican Committee Chairman Kerry Jobe said about applying Tuesday’s results to the upcoming 2019 elections.

Turnout in Westmoreland County also topped unofficial state totals, where it was estimated about 56 percent of the more than 8.6 million registered voters cast ballots in Pennsylvania. In Allegheny County, unofficial results put turnout at 57 percent.

Officials expect turnout next year -- when voters elect county commissioners and row officers, including sheriff and county controller, as well as borough and city councils, township supervisors and school boards -- won’t reach the same high levels.

Turnout for municipal elections four years ago was about 30 percent; Democrats reclaimed a majority on the board of county commissioners.

Jobe said Tuesday’s turnout and results are good indicators for Republican successes next year.

“It will be a very candidate-centric election and maybe not focus on national issues. But, President Trump running in 2020 could get people to the polls in late 2019,” Jobe said, noting the large local support for the GOP gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates. “We still won Westmoreland County and that’s a good sign for Republicans going into next year.”

Democrats said even without wins this year, there are reasons for optimism moving forward.

Congressional candidate Bibiana Boerio, who was soundly defeated by Republican Guy Reschenthaler in a district that includes two-thirds of Westmoreland County, actually received a substantially higher percentage of the vote, 42 percent, than Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential election, when she garnered just 33 percent.

Paul Adams, vice chairman of the county’s Democratic Committee, said Boerio’s performance is reason to believe Democrats are making gains in the county.

“We have to keep that momentum but we have to look at the bigger picture more. Republicans became dominate over decades and we can’t undo all that in just two elections,” Adams said.