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Many voters in Pittsburgh region expected to skip trip to polls

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Randy Schmidt, an Allegheny County employee, prepares Election Day materials on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in the county warehouse in the North Side.

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Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

Less than a quarter of Western Pennsylvania's registered voters are expected to trickle to the polls on Tuesday, elections officials predict.

Joseph DiSarro, head of political science at Washington & Jefferson College, doesn't blame voters for the anticipated low turnout. He said many races across the region are uncontested, lack candidates or, because of one party's dominance over another, just aren't competitive.

There is only one statewide race: a contest for a state Superior Court judgeship between Vic Stabile of Cumberland County and Jack McVay Jr. of Allegheny County.

“Voters don't feel like going to the polls and wasting their time when they feel like many of the races have already been decided,” DiSarro said.

That's bad for government, DiSarro said.

“There's a role for loyal opposition. Even if you don't win, you present another side, a full airing of the issues. By and large, people aren't getting that. The loss here is to the voter,” DiSarro said.

DiSarro pointed to the mayoral race in Pittsburgh, where a Republican hasn't held the city's top office since the Great Depression and the GOP candidate, Josh Wander, is living in Israel. He faces Councilman Bill Peduto, D-Point Breeze.

“It really bothers me that there's so much apathy, but a Republican is never going to win here,” said David Price, 63, a Democrat from Carrick. He said he's missed voting in just one election, when he was serving in Vietnam.

Democrats' 5-to-1 registration advantage in Pittsburgh led Dorothy Brown, 69, of Westwood to leave the GOP and become a Democrat.

“Nobody wants to hear you talk if you're a Republican. So I became a Democrat in name only. I'll be voting for the Republican,” said Brown, referring to Wander.

Allegheny County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik predicts 25 percent of registered voters will turn out. About 60 percent of the county's 877,000 registered voters are Democrats.

Wolosik said turnout could be higher in some geographical “pockets of interest,” or areas with competitive races for county council, mayor, municipal council or school board.

Wolosik said about 24 percent of registered voters turned out in 2009 and 31 percent did in 2005 — the last two general elections that followed a presidential election year, just as this year.

“You have to prepare like it's going to be 100 percent,” Wolosik said, noting that the county will set up about 4,200 electronic voting machines, rely on about 7,700 volunteers and send polling books identifying each registered voter in more than 1,300 precincts. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Elections officials in Butler County expect turnout to be 15 percent to 20 percent there;.In Washington County, 22 percent are expected to vote, and in Westmoreland County, 20 percent to 25 percent.

Low voter turnout is anticipated statewide, perhaps only 20 percent of the state's 8.2 million voters casting ballots, The Associated Press reported.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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