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Allegheny County elections offices field voter deluge

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Tim Laslavic, 57, helps CCAC student, Lauren Liposky, 18, of West Mifflin at a voter-registration drive at CCAC’s south campus in West Mifflin on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Four days from a key registration deadline, county elections offices are scrambling to process a deluge of last-minute voter applications.

Officials said the late-season surge is normal for a presidential election, when the voter rolls can swell by several percentage points. Still, it appeared unlikely Thursday that statewide registrations would reach the 8.76 million voters recorded in fall 2008.

The deadline to register to vote on Nov. 6 or to update registration is Tuesday.

“I'm sure there will be an increase between the primary and the general” election, said Mark Wolosik, the elections director for Allegheny County.

But given registration trends so far, “I'd be surprised” to see the number of voters who appeared on the rolls four years ago, Wolosik said. The county listed 956,114 for that election cycle.

The tally slipped to 888,686 by the spring primary, down 7 percent. Election directors in several counties said numbers are rebounding now, buoyed by traditional interest in the presidential election.

A recent statewide voter count, posted by the Pennsylvania Department of State, showed nearly 8.38 million voters, 4.5 percent fewer than in November 2008. An outage this week of a key state registration database hobbled any detailed breakdown of the numbers.

In Westmoreland County, elections director Jim Montini said workers have observed registration gains among Democrats and Republicans. He has not noticed either side overwhelming the other in new registration numbers, he said.

“It's typical,” Montini said.

Officials in Beaver, Butler and Washington counties reported they, too, are fielding upticks normal for a presidential election year.

Political observers pointed to a drop-off in overall voter enthusiasm to explain the apparent dips from 2008.

“In 2008, neither side had an incumbent running. That generated a lot of interest on both sides,” said Pat Dunham, chairwoman for the political science department at Duquesne University. “There were massive voter registration efforts on both sides, though by most accounts Democrats were more successful.”

This time around, she said, “we don't have the kind of wide-open contest.”

And incumbent President Obama “has disappointed some of his supporters, so there's not as much enthusiasm there.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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