As folks headed to the polls Tuesday, many learned the state’s highest court ruled results for a referendum related to victims rights wouldn’t be certified.
Since the referendum for Marsy’s Law was already on the ballot, Tuesday, the announcement left some voters confused.
“They’re not counting the vote because the Commonwealth Court ruled it is not an appropriate amendment,” said Juniata College professor of politics Jack Barlow. “It changes too many things all at once and the other problem is, a constitutional amendment is required to use the actual language on the ballot when your voting on it.”
Barlow said the simplicity of language doesn’t allow voters to understand the full scope of the law.
“The ballot is too simple,” he said. “It doesn’t actually show what they’re doing,” he said.
Marsy’s Law has been percolating through the General Assembly for two years. It passed the legislature by large margins in two consecutive sessions and was on track to become law with voter approval.
The amendment allows the expansion of legal rights of crime victims and the payment of restitution by criminal offenders, restricts the early release of inmates, and changes the procedures for granting and revoking parole.
“Criminal defense lawyers have said the proposed amendment would also permit victims to refuse requests for discovery,” said Barlow. “This means that crime victims could legitimately withhold evidence that would show that someone accused of a crime was in fact innocent.”
Huntingdon County’s victim witness advocate, Alison Hall, said if the amendment is thrown out and does not pass, the impact will be minuscule.
“The amendment is so complex, but at this time I don’t think it’s going to have too much of an impact without it,” she said.
Even if the amendment is rejected, there is still existing legislation rights for victims that will continue to provide protections.
“Victims are still notified of release with the help of the Hunting County Police and PASAVIN (Pennsylvania Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification) I think with Marsy’s law it concentrates more on early releases, “ said Hall.
It is unclear what the next steps for this amendment will be.
“I don’t actual know what happens next, but the votes will not get counted on this ballot,” says, Barlow
He continues to say there may be a possibility of an official revote in the future.
“At some point, it may have to be voted on again, perhaps the General Assembly will have to vote on it again and then send it back to voters,” said Barlow.
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There were a few contested municipality races in Tuesday’s general election.
While results still remain unofficial, some municipalities will likely see some changes in leadership when they reorganize in January.
There were three open seats on Huntingdon Borough Council.
The top three vote-getters for those open seats include incumbents Democrat Jim Bair, who received 784 votes; Democrat Nicole Houck, who received 714 votes; and Republican David Fortson, who received 691 votes to fill the last open seat on borough council.
Incumbent Democrat Robert Jackson was just shy of securing an open seat on the borough with 634 votes. Republican Mary L Everhart received 570 votes and Republican Michael Smith received 489 votes. There were also 11 write-in votes in Tuesday’s election.
Mount Union Borough
Tuesday’s election has so far yielded only one definitive answer from Mount Union residents casting ballots in borough council races. With just one candidate printed on the ballot, voters will have to wait for the county to confirm write-in votes before knowing who lays claims to two council seats.
Nancy Lynn, third ward representative and lone candidate on the ballot, retained her seat with 109 votes, compared to 34 write-ins. Third ward resident Christopher Drobnock launched a write-in campaign last month.
Lynn was appointed by council to fill an unexpired term in August 2014; she ran for the seat and won, in 2015.
The Third Ward has 422 registered voters of which 154 — or 36.49 percent — participated in Tuesday’s election.
In Mount Union’s First Ward, Patrick Reeder and Toni Welsh both vied for write-in votes for the seat currently held by Mary Crawley.
Reeder, who is employed as a corrections officer at SCI Smithfield, reported Monday that his campaign hit a snag Nov. 1 when he received word that the state, which previously okayed his bid for the borough seat, had rescinded its approval.
Dan Egan, spokesperson with the state Office of Administration, said state employees must have approval from the state if they want to run for public office so that the state may determine whether or not the elected office presents any potential for conflict with the individual’s employment.
“It can’t interfere with commonwealth employment,” he said.
Reeder said Monday he would move forward with his write-in campaign and that he intends to appeal the state’s decision.
A total of 73 wrote-in votes were cast in the First Ward. According to county data, there are 408 registered votes in the precinct; 123 voters cast ballots, a participation rate of 30.15 percent.
In the Second Ward, incumbent Michael Shields and challenger Thad Fortney sought write-in votes.
Reeder said Fortney, who ran in tandem with Reeder on the same platform, is also a state corrections officer and, with his own candidacy up in the air, he’s not sure if Fortney can except a similar decision from the state.
A total of 86 write-in votes were cast for the council seat. Of the 448 registered voters int he ward, 142 participated in the election, or 31.70.
Alexandria Borough Council had three council member positions open for four-year terms. The three top vote getters were Republican Rachelle Hopsicker with 58 votes, Republican Judy Scott with 57 votes and Democrat Joel Pheasant with 50 votes.
Former borough council president Michael Peters, who ran as a Democrat, received 41 votes and there were 46 write-in votes.
There were also two two-year positions open on Alexandria Borough Council, and former council member, Democrat James Foster, received 77 votes, and former mayor, Republican Charles “Sam” Miller, received 66 votes, to fill the two spots for the two-year positions.
There were 19 write-in votes for the two-year spots on council.
Republican Ronald L. Gorsuch, who previously held the position as Alexandria Borough mayor, received 71 votes to fill the spot as mayor, and there were also six write-in votes for the open mayor position.
There were also eight write-in votes for constable for Alexandria Borough.
The position of the lone spot for a six-year term for Walker Township supervisor is up in the air until the hand count is completed, so it’s unknown as this time who will fill that spot.
Incumbent Republican Rodney Johns received 177 votes, while Democratic challenger Michael Keller received 116 votes. There were also 309 write-in votes cast in Tuesday’s election.
Walker Township resident and Republican Matthew Johnson was conducting a write-in campaign for the open supervisor position, but he will have to wait to see if all of those write-in votes were officially cast for him.
The hand count for Tuesday’s election will be conducted Friday, Nov. 8, and completed results will follow on the county’s website at www.huntingdoncounty.net. For a complete list of all winners of municipal elections, go to the county’s website and click on the link for 2019 general election results.
Results are unofficial until approved by the state Department of State.
Staff writers Nathan Woods and Rebecca Berdar contributed to this report.
There were two county row offices with contested races in the 2019 general election Tuesday — county commissioner and treasurer.
The unofficial results noted that all incumbents easily won reelection to secure four more years in their respective posts.
In the county commissioners race, the incumbents, Democrat Jeff Thomas and Republicans Scott Walls and Mark Sather, easily secured enough votes, and Thomas will serve his third term as commissioner, while Sather and Walls will serve their second term as commissioner.
As far as specific votes, Sather garnered the most with 5,859 votes, or 35.57% of the vote. Walls was the second highest with 5,676 votes, or 34.45% of the vote. Thomas had the third highest number of votes, with 2,935 votes, or 17.82 percent of the vote.
Gary O’Korn, who ran as a Republican challenger in the May primary, but secured enough Democratic write-in votes in the spring to run on the Democratic ballot, garnered 1,937 votes, or 11.76% of the vote in the general election.
There were 67 write-in votes cast for commissioner.
Sather is happy with the outcome of the election.
“I am honored to see the results of the election,” Sather told The Daily News this morning. “I thank all of the voters who had worked with me to see that positive actions bring positive results. The talk of many at the polls recognized a good working group of commissioners. The results of last night is a shared success.”
Walls expressed his appreciation for his supporters and their dedication and support.
“I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the voters who gave of their time to support me,” he said. “The voters have put together a great team on the county, state and federal levels who work together in the best interests of Huntingdon County. I will continue to base my decisions on what is best for you, the residents of this county, not politics.”
Thomas said he’s “humbled and honored” by the support of the voters.
“I would like to say thank you for all of your support,” he said. “I would like to commend all of those who ran for positions throughout the county to help make our community and county a better place.
O’Korn did not respond to emails or calls made by The Daily News as of press time.
In the county treasurer race, incumbent Susan Harry garnered 5,933 votes, or 64.05% of the vote, to win another four-year term over challenger Tammy Peterson, who ran as a Democrat in the general election. Peterson secured 3,306, or 35.69% of the vote. There were 24 write-in votes cast for county treasurer.
Harry is pleased she’ll be able to serve another four years as treasurer and is thankful for the support she received during the campaign.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving as your treasurer,” said Harry. “It has been a privilege to work for the residents of Huntingdon County the past four years. I cannot express enough how thankful I am for all my supporters, friends and family. I will continue to work hard to do the very best and contribute to the county.”
Peterson, who remains a registered Republican, understood it would be a difficult battle in the general election, but she wanted to offer county residents a choice.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” she said. “I’m still a registered Republican, so many vote straight ticket, I knew that’s where the battle for me to try to get people to change that. I truly believe people should have choices, and in local elections, there’s often only one person who is running unopposed. I’m just glad I gave people the option to truly have that choice.”
She also wanted to thank those who helped her during her campaign.
“I had a lot of people in both parties helping me, and I certainly appreciate them, Bland Park, Ellis Griffith and Ada Miller, they were just phenomenal,” she said. “There were also many others, but it would be a long list to name them all.”
Southern Huntingdon County School District
The district’s central region covers Cromwell and Springfield townships plus Three Springs Borough, and incumbent Republican Candy Sonnenberg garnered 394 votes over the 212 write-in votes to secure the one open seat in that region.
Former SHCSD school board member David Booher said he was conducting a write-in campaign to fill that one open seat in the central region.
Incumbent Heather McClure, who filed as a Democrat and Republican, garnered 336 votes, while 795 votes went to write-in candidates for the two open seats in SHCSD’s eastern region, which includes Dublin and Tell townships plus the boroughs of Orbisonia, Rockhill and Shade Gap.
Eric Walters, Todd Griest and Kylee Ruiz, all three residents of the eastern region, were conducting write-in campaigns to fill one of the two open seat in the eastern region.
For the two open seats in the western region, incumbent Jerry Hammons, running as a Republican, got 257 votes, while there were 572 write-in votes for the second open seat. Incumbent Michael Brown, as well as western region residents Cheryl Wagner and Steve Carowick Jr. were running write-in campaigns for a seat in this region.
SHCSD serves roughly 1,200 students and operates a middle school/high school and three elementary schools Rockhill, Shade Gap and Spring Farms.
Huntingdon Area School District
Five seats were open for board position Huntingdon Area School Board in Tuesday’s election.
The two seats open in Region 1 were won by Susan Grainey, who cross-filed as a Democrat and a Republican with 1,191 votes, and Democrat Dennis Plane secured 1,018 votes to fill those open seats. There were also 86 write-in votes.
Region 1 is comprised of Huntingdon Borough’s first, fifth and sixth wards, as well as Oneida, Miller and Jackson townships.
Lucinda “Cindy” Dell, who also crossed filed as a Democrat and Republican, garnered 598 votes. There were 250 write-in votes cast in Tuesday’s election for the lone open seat in Region 2. Lindsey Burkey, a resident of Henderson Township, ran a write-in campaign for the same open seat in region 2.
Region 2 is comprised of Huntingdon Borough’s second, third and fourth ward, Mill Creek Borough and Henderson and Brady townships.
There were two seats open in Region 3. One of the seats was won by Republican Heather Fox with 1,233 votes. The second seat will be determined by write-in votes, of which there were 256 (17.19%). Retired Huntingdon Area School District nurse Denise Felton was running a write-in campaign.
Region 3 is comprised of Smithfield, Walker, Juniata, Penn, and Lincoln townships as well as Marklesburg Borough.
HASD covers about 275 square miles and serves roughly 1,890 students with two elementary schools as well as one middle and high school.
Mount Union Area School District
Incumbents seeking re-election to the Mount Union Area School Board’s Shirley Township and Mount Union Borough areas appear to have secured their posts for another four years following Tuesday’s general election.
The results are a little less clear in Region 1, which covers territory in both Huntingdon and Mifflin counties and where incumbents Dolly Ranck and Brandee Dodd vied for retention.
Ranck, who serves as board president collected 234 votes in Mifflin County and 32 votes in Huntingdon County. Dodd garnered 217 votes in Mifflin County and 31 in Huntingdon County.
The number of write-in votes totaled 256 in Mifflin County and 18 in Huntingdon County.
Since Mifflin County write-ins total exceeds the votes garnered by either either Ranck and Dodd, an official count by Mifflin County will have to determine if any one write-in candidate collected enough votes to claim a seat on the board.
Region 1’s Huntingdon County territory includes Mapleton Borough and Union Township; in Mifflin County, Region 1 covers Kistler and Newton Hamilton boroughs and Wayne Township.
In Region 2, which encompasses all of Mount Union Borough, there were also two seats up for election.
Incumbent Andrew Ketner collected 210 votes. Greg Dimoff, who currently holds the other Region 2 seat, decided not to run for re-election.
In the days leading up to the election, Heather Brindle and Jamie Inch launched write-in campaigns for the open seat via social media.
According to Huntingdon County’s unofficial results, 189 write-in votes were cast. The county’s chief clerk Heather Fellman predicts the process of confirming winning write-in candidates countywide will take about six weeks.
In Region 3, which covers Shirley Township’s, incumbent Kurt Wenzel garnered 418 votes, while write-in votes numbered 178.
Juniata Valley School District
All candidates vying for a spot for four open positions four four-year terms on the Juniata Valley School Board were easily filled in Tuesday’s election.
Republican William C. Taylor garnered the most votes with 841 in total, while incumbents Krista Reihart, Aden Russell and John Hutton also received enough to serve another term on the board. Reihart received 815 votes, Russell received 789 votes Hutton received 760 votes.
Write-ins for the election accounted for 43 votes.
Tussey Mountain School District
Huntingdon County residents in the Broad Top region helped to decide the makeup of the board the Tussey Mountain School District in Tuesday’s election.
In region 3, which covers Hopewell Township, incumbents Brad Rouser and Adam Baker garnered enough votes to secure their spots on the board. Baker received 87 votes and Rouser received 71 votes. There were three write-in votes cast in this region.
In region 1, which is comprised of Broad Top City Borough and Coalmont Borough as well as Carbon, Todd and Wood townships, Democrat Chad Myers beat Incumbent Republican Wesley Crooks for the lone open seat. Myers received 241 votes and Crooks received 226 votes.
Staff writers Rebecca Berdar, Nathan Woods and Joshua Blattenberger contributed to this report.
Ballots cast in Tuesday’s general election rolled into Huntingdon County’s tabulation headquarters past midnight as residents gave their input on county and local offices.
According to the county’s unofficial results, 36.05%, or 9,511 out of 26,384 registered voters, participated in the election.
While representing a little over one-third of all county voters, the number of people casting ballots reflects a solid increase in participation for local elections.
“We were very pleased by the turnout,” chief clerk Heather Fellman said, noting elections without a presidential or legislative race at stake are lucky to entice even a quarter of the voters to the polls.
In November 2017, the last local election, 24.62 percent of all voters turned out, compared to 52 percent for the midterm election in November 2018 and 67 percent in the presidential election in November 2016.
The tabulation process kicked out with the arrival of Miller Township’s ballots at 8:35 p.m. and concluded soon after Porter Township’s drop-off at 12:40 a.m.
Fellman and elections coordinator Tammy Thompson report the day, and evening, went forward without incident.
“It was a great day all around and a very smooth election,” Fellman said.
She and Thompson expressed their thanks to the 290 election workers who staffed the county’s 58 voting precincts, plus the team at the Bailey Building to processed the evening’s returns.
“We’d like to give a huge thank you to all of the election workers, they’re real troopers,” Thompson said. “It’s a big commitment and we appreciate their efforts. They all have important roles to play.”
Thompson said this time at the polls, the county was pleased to welcome seven Huntingdon Area High School students who were placed at different precincts to serve as clerks.
“We were excited that they were willing to be involved,” she said.
Fellman said the county would like to offer similar opportunities to students in future elections.
“We are interested in getting more young people involved and give them an understanding about what goes into the process,” Fellman said.
For Fellman, Thompson and other election officials, the tabulation process will continue through the week.
In uncontested races for county row offices, incumbent magisterial district judge Doug Gummo received 3,358, or 98.74% of the vote to secure another term.
Incumbent David Smith, a Republican seeking another term as district attorney, received 8,510 votes, or 98.70% of the vote. There were 112 write-in votes for his post.
Virginia “Jinny” Cooper, Incumbent Republican who was seeking another term as register and recorder, received 8,649 votes, or 99.70% of the vote, and there were also 26 write-in votes for that position.
Paul Sharum will serve another term as county coroner, and he received 8,603 votes, or 99.36% of the vote.
Democrats Craig Greenland and Jamie Roberts, as well as Republican Robin Horne, will serve as the county’s auditors. Greenland received 3,350 votes, or 23.85% of the vote, Roberts received 3,011 votes, or 21.43% of the vote, and there were also 974 write-in votes cast.
Huntingdon Borough resident and Republican Bob “Hum” Rodgers was conducting a write-in campaign for one of three open seats for auditor.
As for write-in votes, Fellman said she expects that, by the time they’ve reached out to candidates and confirmed their interest in their elected positions, the process will to take up to six weeks.
For now, the unofficial tally is available at www.huntingdoncounty.net.
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