A few poll disputes mar relatively quiet election
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The election turnout in Allegheny County has been light today, but Common Pleas judges still had to come down a little heavy at some polling places.
At least two court orders have been issued to keep poll watchers and campaigners in line.
"We haven't had a lot problems. We've gotten some calls, but mostly minor stuff," said John Bacharach, a Sheriff's Department solicitor working election day court.
An elected constable "electioneering" in Dormont, and a poll watcher allegedly intimidating workers in Lawrenceville were reported.
There were also reports of "fighting," and "arguing," inside and outside the polling place at the fire hall at the corner of Hamilton and Braddock avenues in Homewood.
Two sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the scene to keep the peace.
At some polling places, voters and their machines had a few misunderstandings.
For instance, some voters at various precincts complained to the county Elections Department that the new machines would not permit plunking. That is when voters cast ballots in a particular race for fewer candidates than they are allowed. An example would be if four judgeships are open and the voter only wanted to pick two.
Some complained that the machine made them start all over.
Mark Wolosik, director of the Elections Department, said those voters misunderstood the latest feature on the new electronic voting machines. At the end of the voting, the voter is offered a reminder that he or she could vote for more candidates. Then a ballot review screen appears.
Some voters misinterpreted this screen to mean their ballots had been canceled.
Prior to installation of the review screen, many voters complained that they needed one, Mr. Wolosik said.
"We want to be sure it is a fair and open election," said Isobel Storch, an attorney working as a poll watcher at the St. Augustine Church polling place in Lawrenceville.
She and others had lodged complaints of a competing poll watcher intimidating his counterparts while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his candidate's name.
The court order there generally reminded all poll workers of the rules, including those that prohibit campaigning within 10 feet of the polling places.
"Turnout is low, but every vote counts," Ms. Storch said. "We want to make sure every vote is recorded properly."
In contrast to last year, when there were numerous reports of either machine malfunctions or poll workers unable to get the machines to start correctly, there were no reports of those kinds of problems today.
Voters are casting ballots for a variety of local and county posts, statewide judges and school financing referendums.
Polls were to remain open until 8 p.m.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published May 15, 2007 2:54 pm