One-third of voters expected at polls for today's election
By Mike Wereschagin
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011,
Elections officials predict slightly more than one-third of registered voters will vote today on a slate of top officials in Allegheny and surrounding counties.
Though these races won't draw as many people to polls as a presidential election, they're important because the winners in local, county and judicial races affect the course of schools, towns and counties for years, overseeing services people rely on, said Ron Ruman, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.
"We encourage everyone to go vote because these folks, on a day-to-day basis, really impact your life more than folks in Harrisburg and Washington," Ruman said. "They set your property tax rates, determine the levels of police and fire protection, make sure your streets get plowed. ... These are important offices."
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Allegheny County Elections Division manager Mark Wolosik predicts between 30 percent and 35 percent of the county's 884,000 voters will turn out. State law requires people voting at polling locations for the first time to bring identification.
Allegheny County voters will choose between Republican D. Raja, 46, of Mt. Lebanon and Democrat Rich Fitzgerald, 52, of Squirrel Hill to succeed two-term incumbent Dan Onorato as county executive. In surrounding counties, voters will decide the control of three-member boards of commissioners. Superior and Commonwealth court races are the only statewide contests.
In the city of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library is asking for a 0.25-mill tax increase to generate $3.25 million annually.
Democratic and Republican party organizations kicked off last-minute efforts to drive supporters to the polls.
"The (state Republican Party) has made a significant effort to get out the Republican vote. By partnering with county parties and local candidates, Republicans have knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors and have made nearly double the amount of GOTV phone calls," said state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason.
Democrats today plan to dispatch volunteers from six staging areas around Allegheny County to knock on doors. More than 1,000 volunteers spread out in 30 targeted counties over the weekend.
"We think all the candidates on the Democratic tickets have made their case. Now it's time to make sure people get out and vote," said state party spokesman Mark Nicastre.
In a nod to Allegheny County's Democratic 2-to-1 registration advantage, the county executive campaigns' final days featured dueling phone calls from members of the Democratic Flaherty family. Shawn Flaherty, son of the late Mayor Pete Flaherty, recorded a pitch for Raja. His cousin, outgoing Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty, who lost to Fitzgerald in the primary, recorded a message supporting Fitzgerald.
County offices will be open, except for the Department of Court Records, Common Pleas Court and the offices of Sheriff, District Attorney and Treasurer, said county spokeswoman Judi McNeil. State executive branch offices will remain open, Ruman said.
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