Decision day: Early turnout strong in NEPA; voters largely split on choices
KINGSTON — The polls are open until 8 p.m. in Pennsylvania, and local election officials said early morning turnout was well above average as voters cast their ballots in a key battleground state in the race for president.
Both candidates — New York businessman Donald Trump and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — made stops in the state Monday in a last-ditch effort to pitch their cases to voters. Trump, the Republican nominee, appeared in Scranton while Clinton, the Democratic nominee, rallied behind a star-studded lineup in Philadelphia.
While several state and local races also will be decided Tuesday, voters in Northeastern Pennsylvania say they were focused on the nation’s highly contentious race for president, though they were largely split on their choice.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Michael Ayers exited the Kingston Municipal Building on Wyoming Avenue after casting his ballot for Trump. Acknowledging Trump often came across as “reckless,” Ayers, of Kingston, said he believes a political outsider is the right choice to lead the nation.
“I think Hillary is going to destroy this country,” Ayers said, sporting a “Marine veteran” baseball cap. “I think she’s going to destroy the military. She’s going to take away our Second Amendment (gun rights). She is not qualified to be the president of the United States or the commander-in-chief.”
Ayers was among 70 voters who had cast their ballots at the Kingston location, the borough’s Ward 2, by 9 a.m. Elections officials there reported no problems and stated an early morning rush seemed to have calmed.
Shortly after Ayers explained his choice, 80-year-old John Furman detailed why he cast his ballot for Clinton.
“I think she’s an honest person,” said Furman, of Kingston. “She has more experience than Donald Trump, that’s for sure.”
About four miles away at Kistler Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre, New Alexander street resident Lawrence Stefanelli unequivocally explained why he wasn’t voting for Trump.
“I’m not going to vote for a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, a pig,” Stefanelli said.
Patty Krushnowski, an election official at Wilkes-Barre’s Ward 16, said 128 people had cast their ballot as of 9 a.m., far exceeding tallies from previous elections. At Kistler’s other polling location, elections officials for Wilkes-Barre’s Ward 15 said 137 people had voted. Neither wards reported any issues with equipment or voters.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. Find your polling place here.
Times Leader Media Group staffers, meanwhile, described the atmosphere at their polling locations:
• Carol L. Swan – Times Leader community news editor
“I was voter No. 69 at Kistler Elementary School in South Wilkes-Barre at 7:30 a.m. The wait was about 10 minutes, and the mood of the crowd was upbeat and enthusiastic. As I was leaving, a traffic jam was building inside and out, so I know it will be a crazy day.”
• Dotty Martin – Times Leader managing editor
“A crumpled up Trump sign on the tree lawn greeted borough residents voting at the Presbyterian church on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort at 7:50 a.m. this morning. Inside, a female state constable stood watch.
A line extended from the registration table to the entrance door of the church, and election officials checking IDs are not the norm at this borough polling place — but this election is different. Voters were quiet and organized as officials hurried them through the line as quickly as possible.
No candidate representatives were anywhere on site, and the only political signs visible, except for the mangled Trump sign, were those supporting state Rep. Aaron Kaufer.”
• Elizabeth Baumeister – Abington Journal staff writer
“I arrived at the Lake Winola (Wyoming County) Fire Hall around 8:15 a.m. The usual small group of campaign volunteers gathered outside the door, handing out literature. All but one of the voting stations inside was occupied and there was no line. I was voter No. 110 and got in and out in just a few minutes. The process was smooth, with no issues.”
• Aimee Dilger – Times Leader photographer
“No big lines at Kistler Elementary School. At 8:19 a.m., I was voter No. 100.”
• Melanie Mizenko – Times Leader staff writer
“At 8:30 a.m., election officials working the polls at Hanover Township’s Newtown Fire Department remarked, ‘I’m not used to this,’ and ‘This is the most I’ve seen.’ I was No. 89.”
• Matt Mattei – Times Leader arts and entertainment reporter
“The line to vote extended out of the door at the Exeter Township Municipal Building at 8:30 a.m., and voters arrived to add to the line every minute. The atmosphere was peaceful, with township residents catching up in line and making small talk. If voters were discussing their political hopes and affiliations, it could not be heard.”
• Jerry Lynott – Times Leader staff writer
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. For the first time since I’ve been living in Wyoming County, I had to stand in line to vote. The line, about a dozen people deep, stretched out the door at the Nicholson Borough Building at around 9:45 a.m. I was voter No. 145.”
• Bill O’Boyle – Times Leader staff writer
“In the Hilldale section of Plains Township, 500 votes had been cast by 11 a.m., more than double the usual turnout in non-presidential years, poll workers said. The line was wrapped around the inside of the Itlo Club on Chamberlain Street in Ward 3 and out the door to the street.
Several people were showing their support for Donald Trump by wearing T-shirts and hats, while a man was explaining to his father how to vote straight Democratic.”
• Eileen Godin – Times Leader and Dallas Post staff writer
“The Trucksville United Methodist Church on Knob Hill Road in Kingston Township polling center had a steady line of voters since 7 a.m., said James Reino, chairman of the Kingston Township supervisors.
Reino, who arrived outside of the polling center shortly before polls opened Tuesday, said the wait time has increased from 45 minutes to nearly two hours. He anticipates the steady stream of voters to increase as the day progresses.
As of noon, 686 voters had already filed their ballots. Kingston Township has about 3,200 registered voters, Reino said.”
• Sarah Haase – Times Leader arts and entertainment editor
“Around noon, voters at the Kingston Recreation Center didn’t encounter hostility or negativity but were instead greeted by a couple of veterans saying “We need your vote,” while holding signs for State Rep. Aaron Kaufer for state representative and presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.
At 12:15 p.m. there were about a dozen voters waiting to cast ballots in Wards 7 and 8. The overall atmosphere at the polls was jovial.”
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL