Stronger than expected primary voter turnout causing Allegheny County election officials to turn their attention to November

Stronger than expected primary voter turnout causing Allegheny County election officials to turn their attention to November

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had already locked up their party’s nomination by the time Pennsylvania weighed-in on June 2.

But that, combined with a global pandemic, didn’t deter voters in Allegheny County.

According to the county’s elections division, 42 percent of registered republicans and democrats voted either in-person or by mail this month -- only slightly behind the 46 percent turnout in 2016, when there were two competitive presidential primaries.

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It also far outpaces 2012, when only 22 percent of primary voters showed up to the polls.

“We had about 70 percent of the people in Allegheny County vote by mail,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

That number is encouraging to Fitzgerald.

But from a logistics standpoint it’s also worrisome, with a big spike in voters expected in November.

“We had 335,000 people vote. Four years ago in the fall, we had 660,000 people vote. If we’re looking at a doubling, which is what we anticipate, the mail will be much more critical,” Fitzgerald said.

That means staffing more than 1,300 polling places in the county and hiring extra people to count mail-in ballots, work that’s already underway.

“We’re going to have to figure out more machines, more high-speed scanners, enough staff, enough personnel,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald’s advice is simple: Apply for mail-in ballots early and online, so that any issues can be handled quickly and the county can focus on counting ballots on Election Day.

Officials: Pa. primary elections reveal issues that need addressed before November