Voting machine operator Bill Lusher, left, assists Hazleton voter Rick Slebodnick in Hazleton City Hall on Tuesday.PETE G. WILCOX photos/THE TIMES LEADER
Election signs are posted along Main Road in Hunlock Township on Tuesday to entice voters.PETE G. WILCOX photos/THE TIMES LEADER
With a mock trial going on at Hazleton City Hall, parking was scarce. But voters were plenty.
“We’ve had a nice and steady flow of voters,” said election worker Huberta Ford. “They’re coming constantly, and it’s more Democrats than Republicans.”
Judge of Elections Eileen Whitacker said there were more voters in one hour than the total voters for the day in some previous elections.
“We’ve already had over 100 people, and it’s only 10:30 a.m.,” Whitacker said. “Sometimes we don’t have that many people all day.”
Whitacker said four businessmen and women from India were scheduled to come to City Hall at 3 p.m. to observe how voting works in America.
Rick Slebodnick of Hazleton needed a little help with the voting machine, and election worker Bill Lusher was glad to lend a hand.
“That’s really the only stuff we’re been dealing with. Helping people use the machine. Otherwise, there have been no problems,” Whitacker said.
Ford, an election worker for more than 20 years, said all primary elections are important – but none may have been more important than this year’s.
“We need change, and that’s why there’s so many people showing up,” Ford said.
Nicholas Gallucci hasn’t voted in more than 15 years. But on Tuesday, his enthusiasm for Sen. Hillary Clinton was evident.
“This is a turning point for the country,” Gallucci said. “…We really need (a change) bad.”
Gallucci said he made his decision after watching televised reports of caucuses and primaries.
About 113 voters had cast their ballot shortly after 11 a.m., and poll workers expected the number to triple, said election worker Cathy Gorga.
“We never get this many (voters),” Gorga said. “They’re mostly all Democrats, and they’re coming in one after another.”
Judge of Elections Dolores Clatch said she thinks the turnout is larger than any other election because of the candidates running for president.
“Everyone wants to make their selection,” Clatch said. “They want to make sure they elect the right candidate.”
Clatch said her precinct had to turn away several residents registered as Independents because only Democrats or Republicans could vote in Tuesday’s primary.
Election worker James Karpowich said there was a line of people waiting outside Providence Place Retirement Community before the workers showed up to set up the polls.
“And since then, it’s been a steady flow and we’ve been pretty busy,” Karpowich said.
By noon, more than 170 people had voted.
“More Democrats than Republicans are coming,” said worker Tanya Delese. “Some Independents came to vote and we had to turn them away.”
Karpowich said a number of voters needed help with finding their polling places.
Some Republicans came in thinking they couldn’t vote, but were glad to find out they could.
Trevor Howley of Drums said he called everyone he knew to make sure they voted Tuesday.
“It’s my duty as a citizen to vote. I was a non-partisan and switched to the Democratic Party so I could vote in the primary. Hillary Clinton is going to be president,” Howley said. “Candidates can’t win if we don’t vote.” Mary Schell, also of Drums, said her husband, Duane, was voting for the first time on Tuesday.
“He feels the country is going in the wrong direction,” Schell said. “He wants it to turn around. And I feel the same way.”
With Democrats coming out of the woodwork, and a primary that essentially has its Republican presidential candidate chosen, Kim Harrison of Nanticoke stood outside of the precinct telling voters the Republican Party still needs their help.
“Republicans need to vote for Ron Paul and the Republican delegate candidate race, too,” Harrison said. “Republicans need to vote to get three (delegates) elected to vote for Ron Paul…”
Harrison’s husband, Michael Harrison, is running for delegate in the 11th District. “I’ve seen a fair amount of Republicans turn out today. We’ve had a big response, especially after our telephone campaign, and we’re urging people to write in Lou Barletta for Congress.”
Just after 1 p.m., 219 people had voted at the precinct on Church Street.
“That’s the most I’ve seen so far in any primary election,” said Louise Sedorchuk, a longtime election worker. “That number will at least double by the end of the day with the steady flow of people coming in.”
Sedorchuk said she has seen more young voters this election, as well as first-time voters.
“They’re mostly Democrats, but we’ve seen Independents come in and had to turn them away,” Sedorchuk said.
Frank Tagiani and his wife, Vilma, showed up to vote because they feel this primary is pivotal.
Soup was on the menu at the volunteer fire house kitchen, and so were hamburgers and hot dogs – but voters made sure they cast their ballot before heading over to have a meal.
By 2 p.m., nearly 293 people had voted -- one of the biggest turnouts the municipality has seen.
“A lot of people are excited about the (presidential) candidates, and they want to make sure they vote,” said election worker Mary Widoner. “That number will double by the end of the day when everyone gets out of work.”
Robert Young of Hunlock Creek held his post outside the polls handing out James May for State Representative pamphlets. He said they had seen many first-time voters and a steady stream going and coming from the fire house.
“People are ready for change. There’s a lot of hot contenders running (for president),” Young said. “The world is going in the wrong direction. We hope we can change it one person at a time.”
“He’s brilliant,” said Cora Jean Zimmer of Hunlock Creek of Sen. John McCain. “He’s way ahead of the other (candidates).”
Zimmer and her husband, James, were at the fire house Tuesday to vote because they believe the country needs change.
“People are concerned about money we lost from the (war in Iraq) and because of the cost of gas,” Zimmer said. “We need change.”
Unlike some precincts, election officials in Yatesville hadn’t seen a staggering number of voters; by 3 p.m., 115 had turned out.
“We’re surprised there aren’t more, but people still haven’t come out of work, and more might come,” said Judge of Elections Beatrice Alaimo. “It’s slow, but steady.”
Yatesville has about 250 registered voters, and workers hoped the remaining number showed up by the end of the day.
Resident Joseph Harding said he came out to vote because of his choice for president and that treasurer and local representatives were also important to him.
Nearly half of the 13th Ward’s 600 registered voters had voted by 4 p.m.
“We’ve had a steady flow all day. We had people waiting outside when we got here,” said election worker Michael Shinko.
Poll worker Courtney Smith said the precinct had seen more students than ever but not as many as she had hoped.
A few registered Independents showed up and had to be turned away – so did an Allentown resident who thought he could vote while in Wilkes-Barre.
“Some wanted to vote in (the party opposite of the one they belong to), too, and we had a lot of first-time voters,” said election worker Tony Brooks.
Poll workers at the B’Nai B’rith on East Northampton Street may not have had any voters trickle in after 7:45 p.m., but they did see a spike in voter turnout – and more college students than in previous elections.
“We don’t have any (voters) now (other than absentee ballots), but we did have a lot more college kids than usual,” said Carol Marsland.
Approximately 319 of the 842 registered voters turned out.
“We’re surprised at the turn out,” said Marian Cromack. “We were very busy all day long. We’ve had more people come out today than we usually get.”
Elected minority inspector Deborah Ann Hargraves was asked to leave after she showed up at the Bear Creek Township District 02 polling place Tuesday morning, said county Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza.
Judge of Elections Nancy Wright and three other members of the township’s election team had publicly asked county officials in March to remove Hargraves due to numerous concerns from election workers and voters. They said they would resign if Hargraves was allowed to work.
Hargraves, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, had said in March that the complaints were unwarranted and there were no grounds for her removal.
Piazza said Tuesday that he “found it prudent to have her taken home.” A sheriff’s department representative escorted Hargraves from the polling place and she was instructed not to return, Piazza said.
Hargraves “cooperated fully,” Piazza said, declining to release further details.
Wright declined comment at the polling place on Tuesday.
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