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Polls close on a busy day of voting
By Audrey Prisk
Point Park News Service
Lenora Austin has been working polls in the Pittsburgh area since 2000. At 8:02 p.m. Tuesday, she was pushing her walker behind a row of long tables in the lobby of University of Pittsburgh’s Wesley W. Posvar Hall.
“It got so busy in here today that we had to make signs that put students into alphabetical sections so that they could vote,” Austin said.
A cardboard sign with A-H scrawled in red permanent marker sat on the table in front of her as testament.
“The young people took over,” Austin said. “This election was so exciting.”
Austin said that the poll workers at this location asked for voters to present their IDs but did not require them to vote.
“If they didn’t have an ID, we told them that it was okay because they’re not required until the Spring,” she said.
The overall mood slowed in the lobby around 7:30 p.m. as the nine poll workers took down signs and packed up their things. Crockpots and boxes of crackers lay strewn behind the workers, dinner having been hours before.
“If there’s one thing that’s important today, it’s to vote as if your life depended on it, because it does,” Austin said.
After clean up, Austin said she planned on returning home to celebrate with a bottle of Pepsi.
Sitting inside the Oakland polling place at 2846 Boulevard of the Allies, Tanya Payne rubbed her eyes, waiting for the end of a busy election day.
The former city councilwoman has been the judge of elections at this polling place for four years. About an hour before the polls closed at 8 p.m., the warehouse held six poll workers, a poll watcher and Payne.
She had been there since 6 a.m.
“I’m so excited to just go home and see who has won,” Payne said. “We just want to close everything down and wait for the results.”
The other workers were spread throughout the first room, leaning on counter tops and holding their cheeks in their hands. A poll watcher sat alert in the far room, her notebook poised on her lap, her eyes scanning the empty pair of voting booths located across the room.
One of the last voters, a young man, pulled open the glass door to exit as Payne called out to him: “Thank you for voting. Have a good night!”
Waiting all day to vote
By Nicole Chynoweth
Point Park News Service
By early evening, John Katsos stood outside a Oakland polling place – but he still hadn’t gone inside to vote.
Katsos, 46, of Oakland, was instead distributing flyers, which listed all of the Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s General Election, to other voters arriving at 284 Boulevard of the Allies. As a committee man, he planned on going inside to vote straight Democrat.
“I’ve been a Democrat since I was a little boy,” said Katsos, who works at Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill. “My mom just passed away, and she would turn over in her grave if I voted any other way.”
Jonathan Flemings, 22, of Oakland, voted at that location, saying that President Barack Obama’s stance on social issues helped him choose the Democrat.
“I believe in women’s right to choose and equal rights for all, no matter what your orientation, color, social status or financial status,” said Flemings, a student at Point Park University. “I really think (Obama) is on the right track to fixing what the last administration left for the rest of the country. I feel like four years isn’t enough to fix what eight years-plus has kind of done.”
First-time voter Dalton Lampkin, 19, echoed Flemings’ statements.
“I’m not really big on politics,” said Dalton, who also attends Point Park University. “For what Obama stands for, dealing with equality and his work and what he has done in the past…I just support everything he has done so far.”
As of 4:55 p.m., 125 people had voted at that location, said poll worker Tanya Payne, 39, of Schenley Heights.
Across the neighborhood at the Oakland Senior Center, Obama campaign volunteer Noah Tankin, 20, of North Oakland, stood outside the polling place, directing voters inside and making sure they were at their correct location. Tankin said he voted for Obama.
“Besides having similar values that align with his stances, I’d rather stick with an evil I know than vote for a different evil I don’t know,” Tankin said.
As of 5:18 p.m., 607 people had voted at the senior center, according to poll worker Daniel Rawlings, 25, of Homewood.
Turnout high with ‘a lot on the line’
By Gregg Harrington
Point Park News Service
Eight people waited inside the Penn Hills High School gymnasium by late afternoon Tuesday for their chance to vote in the General Election.
“We’ve had very heavy traffic, but there’s a lot on the line,” said poll worker Caroline Fellinger, a 12-year veteran.
At nearby Washington Elementary in Penn Hills, almost 300 voters had walked through the door by 5 p.m. A line of people stopping by on their way home from work had started to form.
Judge of Elections Damion Wilson said the traffic was heavier than the previous presidential election in 2008. The high amount of voters also has come with a high level of frustration, he said.
“We haven’t had any machine problems, but we’ve had a lot of people who were misinformed about where they should go to vote,” Wilson said.
He also added that many voters who came to the polling place were not registered there.
“Besides that,” he said, “everything has been smooth.”
Mt. Oliver sees ‘great’ turnout
By David Pollio
Point Park News Service
Retired U.S. Army veteran, Frank Bernardini, 72, of Mt. Oliver, greeted incoming and outgoing voters inside the polling place located at at 110 Penn Ave. in Mt. Oliver.
“It’s a great turnout this year,” he said. “So far we’ve seen close to 500 people, when in past years we’ve only had around 400 voters total.”
Sitting next to Bernardini, Nick Vigilione, 63, of Mt. Oliver, said he has heard a lot of support for President Barack Obama.
Both Bernardini and Vigilione agreed that an important issue for Pennsylvania voters to consider when they cast their votes was the Marcellus Shale topic. They are concerned for the environment and are not quite sure what the long-term effects of drilling will do to the region.
‘I Voted’ stickers run out
By Kimberly Smith
Point Park News Service
Polls in Shadyside and Highland Park were buzzing with activity at midday Tuesday, as people came in masses to vote.
At the Fulton School in Highland Park, Matt Dickey of Sharpsburg stood outside passing out flyers supporting John Maher for Auditor General. After going through more than 250 flyers, he said he expects to be slammed with people after work hours end.
“A lot of my flyers were even given back or just not taken,” he said. “There was a line here before the polls opened of people wanting to vote before they have to get to work, and it’s only going to get busier.”
Inside, Shelly Danko-Day, of Highland Park, said they’ve had 186 voters already for Ward 11, District 1, one of the two polling places inside the venue. Things have been running smoothly, she said, calling it a high turnout thus far.
“That’s nearly double what we usually have all day,” she said with enthusiasm.
Ward 11, District 7, had seen 219 voters, and poll workers said they have the same expectations as Dickey as the day progresses.
Julie Costa-Malcolm, also working at the Highland Park polling place, noted a large increase since the 2008 election in first-time voters and family members coming to vote together.
“Parents are bringing their kids and making it a whole family affair,” she said. “One family of seven all showed up together, and one of the kids was a first-time voter.”
Standing outside the paramedic center on Filbert Street, the Shadyside polling place, Mary Litman of Shadyside was handing out Allegheny County Democratic Committee slate cards with a “Women for Obama” sticker on her shirt.
“Everyone has been very enthusiastic – not only about the race, but also of the Democratic platform,” she said. “But there were two men who were both obvious Republicans who told me I was standing too close to the polling place.”
Inside, there were three districts represented: Ward 7, District 7; Ward 7, District 5; and Ward 7, District 4. All three districts have seen an excellent turnout, polling Constable Jim Cornyn said.
At District 7, 161 of the 786 voters had come (besides an additional 80 absentee ballots); District 5 had seen 198 of its 741 registered voters; and District 4 had seen 251 of the registered 1,053 voters.
“We even had a line at least 20 deep before the polls opened,” Cornyn said.
Neither of the polling venues have had any issues with the voter ID confusion. The only issue Cornyn said he has run into so far is the lack of ‘I voted!’ stickers.
“Everyone is asking for the stickers, and we don’t have them this year,” he said laughing.
Voters turn out to make their choice
By Richelle Szypulski
Point Park News Service
Early Tuesday morning more than 20 people stood on the sidewalk near Consol Energy Center in Uptown, waiting to make their voices heard in this year’s General Election.
The vibrant, red bricks of Epiphany Catholic Church at 184 Washington Place gleamed against the crisp, clear blue of the sky as the same colors clashed at the polls held inside the building.
Voters entered through the side door facing 5th Avenue into McDowell Hall, the church’s bottom-floor banquet room. Chandelier light bulbs lit the room as people took their turns at separate black polling stations reminiscent of conductors’ music stands with side blinders. From there, they cast their choices.
Sandra Dougherty, 60, of Uptown, is serving as this particular polling place’s Judge of Elections and has done so for the past several years. While many walk in and walk out several minutes later, she’s there from before 7 a.m. until the last person votes.
At 9 a.m., she estimated that more than 60 people had come through to cast their ballots, herself not included. She hasn’t had the time.
“I’m going to try to vote, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” Dougherty said while ripping into the envelope of an absentee ballot taken from the stacks on the table. “It’s a great thing to do. It’s your right.”
She noted an uptake in absentee ballots for this election, stating that she usually only sees about three for the precinct.
Kevin Bianchi, 20, of Howell, N.J., and Amanda Hawkins, 19, of New York, N.Y., are both studying musical theater at Point Park University, but specifically chose not to vote by absentee ballot. Instead, they registered to vote in Pennsylvania where they live now.
“It was really important for me to register here,” Bianchi said. “(Pennsylvania) is more of a swing state than New Jersey is and I feel like my role will make a bigger difference here.”
Hawkins was excited to cast her vote.
“This is the first time that most kids of our generation get to actually vote (for president),” Hawkins said. “It’s such an important presidential race for us to be voting in because it affects so much of what we’re going to be doing.”
She feels a lot of students think they may not know enough about where the candidates stand to partake in the vote.
“I say, find at least one thing that you feel passionate about and vote off of that,” Hawkins said. “You don’t have to know everything, but you should vote for something.”
For Bianchi, it’s not about choosing a party label or picking sides, but he feels it’s more important to do what he thinks is best for the nation.
“I feel like as a country, we’re at a crossroads right now,” he said. “The next four years can either be at ‘A’ or they can be at ‘Z.’ I think it’s really important to vote in the direction that I would like the country to go in, which happens to be Democratic this time.”
Heather Griffin, a 21-year-old pharmacy student at Duquesne University, scaled the hill to the church without a glance at the church’s mulch-planted “Obama – Biden.” She planned to vote for Republican Mitt Romney for president.
“I don’t like the changes (Obama has) enacted and I think (Romney) will do a better job,” she said.
Either way, each of them agreed that it is imperative to get to a poll and vote.
“It’s the biggest say that we get in our country and what happens to us in the future,” Bianchi said. “This is the day to push it in the right direction, even if it’s just one vote. It’s our opportunity to make a difference.”
Heavy turnout pleases poll workers
By Megan Guza
Point Park News Service
Angelo Capozoli was jubilant for 8 a.m. on a Tuesday.
“We’ve already hit the 50-voter mark,” he said. “We normally don’t get to 50 until noon or later.”
Capozoli, 61, is the judge of elections for precinct 2 in the 17th ward in the South Side. He said a line wrapped around the side of the South Side Market House at 12th and Binghamton streets, where the polling places for the second and third precincts is housed.
“It was real busy,” he said. “There were 30 people out the door until 7:30.”
Presidential elections, he said, typically have a high turnout, and this year is no exception.
“They’re huge,” he said. “Mayoral, governor – they’re usually below par because they’re so cut and dry, especially in Pittsburgh.”
Both precincts hit the 50-voter mark around 8 a.m., and Capozoli said he expected the voters to keep coming.
“I guarantee if you’re here at 8 p.m., you’re going to be waiting in line,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”
Kathy Slosky, judge of elections for the third precinct, was equally as thrilled with the turnout.
“This is excellent,” she said. “Just excellent. Usually it’s 4 p.m. by the time we hit 60 or 70 people, and today we’ve got it in an hour and a half.”
Nick Burkett, 32, was happy to be at the polls, despite the early hour.
“I always vote,” he said. “Every election is important, because I vote pro-life.”
He said he was voting for Republicans Mitt Romney for president and Tom Smith for U.S. Senate.
Seven blocks down the street at the South Side Presbyterian Church in the 1900 block of Sarah Street, turnout was just as high, and poll workers were just as pleased.
Poll worker Chris Petrone, 28, said voters had been steady all morning.
“Two people come out, two people go in,” he said. “It’s good, because it keeps the line moving.”
He said the first hour saw a steady line of about 15 people before the rush died down.
Poll worker Kirk Smarsh, 50, said that while turnout hadn’t been as heavy as the previous presidential election, it was still steady.
“Four years ago we had a line around the block,” he said. “It’s been in and out today.”
South Side resident Rhett Lauffenburger was casting his vote ahead of a 12-hour workday to make sure he voted in time.
“I think this is a very close election,” he said, “and I feel very strongly about the options. It’s worth the time.”
City Councilman for the 17th ward Bruce Kraus was casting his ballot before checking up on the other polling places in the area.
“Turnout has been phenomenal,” he said.
Kraus said he was on his way to the Morse Community High Rise Building a few blocks down, where he heard that the line was wrapped around the building.
“It’s just so great to see this kind of turnout,” he said.
Frost greets first few voters
By Holly Tonini
Point Park News Service
Frost covered the ground and not a person was to be seen outside the New Eagle Social Hall along Chess Street at 6:50 a.m., ten minutes before the polls were set to open. That’s because poll workers had unlocked the doors early to let several voters stand inside, away from the 27 degree temperature.
Lugene Calderone, 59, a supervisor and teacher at the University of Pittsburgh in Early Childhood Education, was first in line to vote in the 2012 Presidential Election.
“I’m here to be first in line because this is the most important election we’ve ever had,” Calderone said.
After voting, Calderone quickly texted her friends and family to let them know that ID’s were indeed being asked for by poll workers. In this election, identification is not required to vote but workers can still request it.
“If you don’t show ID, you get a mark and a reminder for next time to show it,” said Calderone. “(The law) may not get repealed.”
Calderone is passionate about voting. She first voted in 1972 for Democrat George McGovern who ended up losing the presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon. The passion has grown since, she said.
The social hall saw about one person every thirty seconds come through the door in the first twenty minutes.
In Monongahela, the polling location at the Monongahela Fire Hall had several problems before getting up and running twenty minutes after the polls opened.
“We only had to tell four people to come back,” said Darlene Cox, 65, the judge of election. “I knew them all so I know they’ll come back.”
Monongahela has five polling locations. Cox said they expect about 100 people through their doors. At 7:45 a.m. only five people had voted.