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Confused voters turned away from polling places outside District 18

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 2:45 p.m.
Jim Scheuerman of Mt. Lebanon, a Conor Lamb supporter, offers a voter a leaflet during the special election for Congress in the 18th District at First Church of Christ Scientist in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jim Scheuerman of Mt. Lebanon, a Conor Lamb supporter, offers a voter a leaflet during the special election for Congress in the 18th District at First Church of Christ Scientist in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

The race between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone for the 18th Congressional District seat caused a bit of angst for “voters” across Pennsylvania on Tuesday who tried to cast ballots, only to be turned away because they live outside the district.

Officials in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties — portions of which are included in the 18th District — said they received angry calls from voters who live outside the district but thought they should have been eligible to vote in the special election.

And it didn't end there.

Indeed, confusion apparently was the order of the day across the state.

The Morning Call , a daily newspaper in Allentown, reported that voters in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, nearly 300 miles from the 18th Congressional District, logged angry calls to county elections officials there complaining that the polls were closed and they were denied a right to vote in the hotly contested special election that has drawn national media attention.

Closer to home, Allegheny County officials said there are 214,772 eligible voters in 253 voting precincts across the county who could vote in the race.

In Sewickley, the county received complaints about a polling place that was not open. That municipality is not in the 18th District.

County officials said several voters in Monroeville were turned away from their polling places because of confusion over wards that are split between congressional districts. Part of Monroeville is in U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle's district.

Monroeville wards in the 18th District are: Ward 2 — Districts 1 and 3; Ward 3 — District 2; Ward 4 — Districts 1 and 2; and Ward 5 — District 3. Only voters in those wards were permitted to vote.

Westmoreland County elections officials fielded calls from voters confused about why their precincts were closed, not aware they are in a different congressional district, said Beth Lechman, elections bureau director. A handful of those calls came from the Murrysville area, she said.

Washington County officials reported they received similar calls.

Of the county's 175 precincts, 125 participated in the special election. River towns such as Donegal, Charleroi and Monongahela are not included, but some voters there called to ask why their precincts were closed.

“Some are just kind of confused because they see ads on TV and signs on the road, so they thought they were included,” said Melanie Ostrander, the county's assistant director of elections.

Tina Kiger, director of Greene County's Office of Elections and Voter Registration, said her staff received between 65 and 70 calls from voters who thought they lived in the 18th District but learned they did not when they went to vote. All of Greene County west of Interstate 79 and a small sliver east of the interstate is in the 18th District.

Kiger said polling places appeared to be busy Tuesday morning. There were a few minor issues with voting machines, she said.

Tribune-Review staff writers Aaron Aupperlee, Debra Erdley and Rich Cholodofsky contributed to this report.

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