Go time! What to expect at the polls for next Tuesday’s historic election

By on November 2, 2016

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As the rollercoaster of the 2016 Presidential election cycle winds down, poll-watching, voter etiquette, and ballot integrity have become key issues of concern.

Of course, who will be watching whom will depend on where you cast your vote Tuesday, Nov. 8.

There have been no polling location changes in the Ephrata region, which is reflective of Lancaster County’s breakdown of 52 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat and 15 percent Independent.

So, poll watchers in the Ephrata-area will work at voting stations in areas dominated by GOP voters. Two basic rules apply for poll watchers: you must be a registered voter in Lancaster County and the positions of Judge of Elections and Inspector of Elections must be registered in the precinct where they seek to be elected.

In Ephrata Borough’s four wards, there are 8,364 registered voters, of which 55 percent are Republicans, 26 percent Democrats, and 17 percent “other.”

The largest number of registered Republicans are in the borough’s second and third wards, with a total 2,789 GOP voters or exactly 55 percent. Both the first and fourth wards total 56 percent GOP voters.

In Ephrata Township’s three regions, GOP voters make up 61 percent of the total 5,557 registered voters there. The Murrell district has the most GOP registered voters at 63 percent, followed closely by 62 percent Republican voters in the Trout Run, and 57 percent GOP registered voters in the Lincoln region.

Three of the top five communities with the highest percentages of Republicans are nearby Ephrata as evidenced by the townships of Earl (73 percent), East Earl (71 percent), and Brecknock (70 percent each). One-third of all the county’s Democrats live in four municipalities: Lancaster city, Lancaster Township, Columbia Borough and Millersville Borough.

There are 1,290 Democratic registered voters in Ephrata Township or 23 percent of total voters there.

Independent registered voters have steadily grown in the past decade and they appear to be bolstered by former GOP voters. Voters identified as “other” in Ephrata Borough are 17 percent and 15 percent of voters registered in Ephrata Township.

There are no precincts in the county where Independents and minor party members outnumber Democrats, but there are 14 where they outnumber Republicans. In fact, Independents have nearly overtaken the GOP in Lancaster city, where there are 24,128 Democrats, 8,172 Republicans and 7,723 voters who belong to neither party.

Whether you’re Dem, GOP or Independent, you should be aware of expected behavior while at the poll. The Department of State last month crafted a letter entitled “Guidance on rules in effect at the polling place on Election Day.”

It details who is “explicitly permitted” at the polls while voting is occurring:

  1. Precinct Election Officials. These include the Judge of Election, the Inspectors (Majority and Minority), appointed clerks and machine operators.
  2. Voters in the process of voting but no more than 10 voters at a time. Others waiting to vote must wait outside the area where voting is occurring.
  3. Persons lawfully providing assistance to voters.
  4. Poll watchers. Poll watchers are registered voters in the county who have been appointed by a party or candidate to observe at the precinct. One poll watcher per party and one poll watcher per candidate may be inside at any given time. Watchers must remain at least six feet away from the area where voting is occurring.
  5. Overseers are registered voters of the precinct who may be appointed, upon petition, by all of the judges of the county Court of Common Pleas to supervise the election. Two per precinct may be appointed and they must belong to two different political parties.
  6. Constables and Deputy Constables for the purpose of preserving the peace.

Another concern voiced by voters in the 2016 election doubts that each vote is counted. There are options to vote electronically or use a paper ballot, which provides an actual paper trail.

Lancaster County election officials’ first instruction for using a paper ballot is to mark your paper ballot correctly by completely filling the box beside your choice using a blue or black ink pen. No pencils only pens will register.

In the case of voting for a write-in candidate, voters should completely fill the o beside the words “Write-In” and write the name of your choice on the blank line provided. When your paper ballot is marked, voters should take it to the eScan machine at your polling place and insert it into the ballot feed slot.

The eScan is a digital scanner that reads paper ballots and will display a “Ready to Scan” alert when the machine is available for the next ballot. Officials say look for verification that the “Scanning Ballot” message is displayed and voters should respond to any voter instruction messages.

If the ballot is properly marked, eScan accepts the ballot and displays the waving American flag to indicate that the ballot has been recorded. If the ballot is improperly marked, nformation screens appears for each contest that requires attention.

 

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