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New polling places do not deter county voters

Butler residents enter Orchard Hill Church to vote in the primary election Tuesday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

Comments from voters early Tuesday should leave the Butler County Bureau of Elections feeling good and those who paid for electronic political ads feeling blue.

Voters arriving at two new polling places — Community Alliance Church, 800 Mercer Road, Center Township, and Butler Public Library, 218 N. McKean St., City of Butler — said they were informed of the new locations well ahead of primary election day.

And they said they made decisions about the candidates with little regard for the political ads that have filled the TV and radio airwaves in the days leading up to the election.

Campaign spending in Pennsylvania hit $85 million for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in just three months, according to the latest Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard analysis.

Margie Fleeger arrived at the Community Alliance Church to vote shortly before noon Tuesday.

Fleeger said she “received a notice in the mail” directing her where to vote. “I’ve kept it in view since I got it,” she said.

When asked when she made her decision who to vote for, she said, “I made up my mind about 18 to 20 months ago, after the last fiasco.”

“It’s been a pretty good turnout for a primary election,” said Amy Knauer, who was running for Republican precinct committeewoman for Center Township Precinct 2.

She said she had made up her mind who to vote for “a couple of weeks ago.”

“I’ve been following the candidates for a couple of weeks now,” she said. “I do my own research anymore.”

Jan Elliott said she had to ask her mother-in-law where to vote this year because the polling place seems to change every year.

Poll worker Dale Lee said Community Alliance Church was picked as a voting location because the previous polling station for Center Township Precinct 2 — Family Life Church just down Mercer Road — was too small.

“There were three fender-benders in the parking lot,” during the last election," Lee said. “There were a lot of complaints about that parking lot. It was tight.”

Voters arrive at the Community Alliance Church in Center Township to cast votes in the primary election Tuesday. Eric Freehling/Butler Eagle

Judge of Elections Shannon Hartman said voter turnout was “very good.”

“We’ve seen it steady, and we’ve had clumps,” she said. “I think after work we’ll get a flow; that’s how it usually works.”

Hartman and the other six poll workers were on hand to solve problems like the one presented to them by Elaine Walker.

Walker said she was turned away from Center Township Precinct 1’s polling station, Trinity Lutheran Church, because she wasn’t listed as a registered voter in that precinct. Poll workers at Trinity directed her to Community Alliance Church, where Walker’s name also was not on the rolls.

Poll workers decided to give Walker a provisional ballot to cast while they sorted out the issue.

“Voting is important, that’s why I’m not going home,” Walker said.

Turnout was running a little slower in the basement meeting room of the Butler Area Public Library, which was serving as the new polling place for City of Butler Ward 2, replacing the former voting site at Terrace Apartments on Cliff Street.

Judge of Elections John Keffalas said turnout, as of early afternoon, had been slow with 8% of the ward’s 850 registered voters casting ballots.

Keffalas also said he expected turnout in Ward 2 to pick up when people got off work.

Laura Felton, who had moved to Butler from King of Prussia in October, said it was easy to figure out where to vote.

“The voter registration card had the address on it,” she said.

Kirsten Legge votes in the primary election at Orchard Hill Church on Tuesday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

“I made up my mind who to vote for about a week ago,” Felton said. “I didn’t pay any attention to the ads. I just had a conversation with my husband. He’s very political.”

“I’m a little familiar with the candidates,” said Beverly Cannon, a lifelong resident of Butler who came out to vote. “I’ve been a Republican since I’ve been 18.

“I think it’s your constitutional duty to vote, and it’s your right,” Cannon said. “No one can take that away from you but yourself. If you don’t vote, you have no reason to complain.”

“I’ve voted a lot. I missed one election because of an illness,” Cannon said. “I’m 71, and I remind my son to vote; he’s 27.”

Outside polling places, changes at the county elections office didn’t hamper voters either. Leslie Osche, county commissioners chairwoman, said workers counted all mail-in ballots before 3:00 p.m., adding the number of mail-in votes in this election was similar to that of the November 2021 election.

Candidates' signs line the wall at Community Alliance Church, 800 Mercer Road, a new polling place for Tuesday’s primary election. Eric Freehling/Butler Eagle

In southwestern Butler County, voters came to the polls with varying priorities. Mike Vasilj of Adams Township said he votes in the primaries every year.

“We’re interested in voting for the Republican primary,” he said, though he added that he was more interested in “the whole thing” than any specific candidate or race.

Frank Madonna of Adams Township said the governor’s primary had drawn him to the polls specifically.

“I have conservative values, and I think the country is moving in the wrong direction right now with the leadership we currently have,” he said. “We need a different direction altogether.”

At the Mars Area Public Library polling place in Mars Borough, other voters were specifically interested in particular candidates.

“I was just voting for Fetterman. That is literally the only person I walked in to vote for,” said Ellen Koenig of Mars. “I think it is important to vote and have your say, and do your civil duty,” she added.

Jeff Foglio of Mars said he was interested in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and state representative.

“I need to get the Republicans moving and back in office where they belong,” he said.

The senate and governor’s race were priorities for Mars resident Mark Gaynord.

“I’m leaning towards McCormick for Senate,” he said. “Scott Timko, I went to grade school with, back at Holy Sepulcher.”

Mike Vasilj of Adams Township said that he votes in primaries every year. “We’re interested in voting for the Republican primary,” he said. Julia Maruca/Butler Eagle

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