November 8 – The final number for Election Day yesterday in Franklin County was a 30 percent voter turnout, which is higher than expected.
It would certainly be nice to have that number even higher, but for a non-presidential Election Day, it’s better than the past.
Let’s dig into what happened yesterday locally, statewide and in the country.
Franklin County first:
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I actually think what may have boosted that in addition to these contested scoreboard and municipal raises in some pockets was the good weather. As we talked about yesterday, political scientists will say that on a fair weather day, that will increase turnout by a few percentage points, as silly as that may sound. So that may be one of the biggest factors that push that turnout up to 30 percent, which historically is a pretty big number for an off year election.”
At the county level, all of the row officer candidates won and the incumbents were elected.
Barkdoll said, “Ian Brink, of course, was a race a lot of people were watching, but he was uncontested. So of course, he got in. On the commissioner side, we were talking yesterday about that third position and Bob Ziobrowski had that incumbency advantage. I think you’re seeing that reflected in the numbers. He won, not by a huge margin, but 1,700, 1,800 votes. So he will be returning to office for another term. So no huge surprises across the board at the commissioner level.
An interesting note, Ben Sites for sheriff was the highest vote getter in all of the row offices.
In the Chambersburg School Board, Republicans Carl McKee and Stephanie Harbaugh won their seats and Democrat Mike Hayduck took his.
Barkdoll said, “We know Joan Smith had a real uphill battle with a write-in campaign. She made a great effort, but she announced it late in the game. It’s very difficult for a write-in candidate to win and she’s going to come up short on that. So it looks like it’s going to be kind of a split there.”
Republicans did quite well on Chambersburg Borough Council.
Barkdoll noted, “There were a couple of races that were very close. There’s one seat that someone has won by 10 votes. So very, very close. It looks like Republicans will hold every seat now on council except for one, this Chadwick Hare is going to be the lone Democrat that won one of those seats.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “Borough Council, Sharon Coffman and Allen Coffman. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this dynamic before, but we have a husband and wife team that will be sitting on Borough Council in Chambersburg.”
Barkdoll said, “I think it’s the first ever. I’m not aware of a spousal council team in Chambersburg ever or in any local municipality for that matter. That’ll be a really interesting dynamic to watch.”
The write-in effort in Quincy Township of the homeless man didn’t amount to much.
Barkdoll said, “Yes, that guy did get write- in votes, but Nelson Egolf and Ed Wilson easily won. That write-in issue, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of that from a court, maybe criminal justice standpoint now that the Attorney General and DA might be looking at that.”
The Franklin County Board of Elections forwarded a complaint to the District Attorney about the signs for the write-in candidate Charles Smetzer, who is a homeless man, and the signs proclaimed there would be free beer on Fridays in Quincy Township.
Ryan wondered, “If it does get some traction, who gets the blame? Or who do you assign blame to and who do you assign fines to? Is it a misdemeanor? What would be the worst case scenario for these childish troublemakers that had to put these signs out and upset the applecart even more out there?”
Barkdoll said, “There could be both civil and criminal issues at play here and this referral, as I understand it, the election board has made a referral to the District Attorney and the Attorney General’s office. The AG and the DA have what are called concurrent jurisdiction over these sorts of cases. My guess is the DA will likely talk to somebody at the AG’s office to make a decision on how to move forward with this. My word of caution to the people in Quincy that were involved in this, you know the old saying you’re being too cute by half and maybe they thought this was just a joke, and it was going to be a lot of fun. You’ve now got law enforcement looking at this and they’re going to start coming out, maybe doing some interviews. This is one of those situations where my guess is, whether it’s the DA or the AG, they’re going to have the information in their vest when they come do the interview. So you can’t say I don’t know or I don’t remember when they start showing up. Who paid for those signs? Where did you get your sign? Who was running this website? Well, if the answer is good, I don’t know. Authorities likely are already going to have the information.”
If a violation is deemed to have occurred, there could be a fine against the parties that did this.
Barkdoll continued, “There could be a criminal charge. Now that would be very unusual. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibilities, but it would be a misdemeanor. There really are things at play here. One is the failure to disclose who was paying for signs, managing the web site, and any other campaign materials. That’s a violation. The free beer on Fridays is what’s called a per se violation. You’re not allowed to promise services unrelated to your office when you’re running for office. The third violation would be the failure to follow the campaign finance report. Assuming whoever did this spent at least $250, they must file that report with the election board, which did not occur. So we’ll see what happens with this. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people involved start getting calls shortly with some questions. Whether the DA or AG then further pursues it remains to be seen.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “Maybe what people should keep in mind, this is not the time to fool around with elections this way. We had a guy go to jail for the meme he put out on Hillary Clinton back in the 2016 election. He said it was a joke. It was an obvious joke, telling people to vote by the wrong day by text, like and everybody could say well, that was an obvious and obvious joke. Well he actually had serious consequences for that. I think maybe we do have to realize people are not trustworthy of elections right now. It’s a very bad feeling across the country. Don’t fool around with silly things like this even if you just want to say it’s a joke because we don’t need that right now in the kind of atmosphere we’re in.”
Barkdoll added, “Particularly in Quincy Township, with all of the turmoil that’s been happening out there and that may be an issue that the DA or the AG would consider. The point about the joke, most of us would see those signs and think, well, this is silly. Of course there’s not going to be free beer on Fridays, but all it’s going to take is one voter to get in touch with the DA or the AG and say, hey, I went in and wrote that guy’s name in and I thought I was getting free beer. If they legitimately believe that, that’s the sort of interview or fact-finding that a law enforcement agency would look at in determining what they might pursue here. Look in today’s world, everyone would think well, of course it was a joke. Who would think it’s real? Well, we can assume that. I mean, there are voters, they literally see those signs and may think hey, this meant if that guy got in I was going to be able to show up at a building or an office every week on Friday to get free beer.”
In Franklin County in general, Election Day played out pretty much as expected.
Barkdoll said, “Locally, I think the Republicans and the Republican Party have to feel pretty good about their performance, both turnout and these numbers.”
At the state and national level, it’s a bit of a different story.
Barkdoll said, “Republicans had a very poor night.”
In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear won by a big margin over the Republican opponent, the Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Barkdoll said, “That was another race where abortion was very much an issue.”
In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin saw a pretty big rebuke.
Barkdoll said, “Not only did the Democrats maintain their hold on the State Senate, but the House of Delegates has now flipped to the Democrats in Virginia. Again, Youngkin spent a fortune and interest groups spent a fortune in Virginia. The Democrats again framed abortion as a key issue and it clearly worked. They won by big margins in those House races.”
Loudon County, VA, has been in the news recently and yesterday six very liberal, progressive Democrats won seats on the school board.
Barkdoll noted, “A lot of money was spent on that race as well. Antonin Scalia, his daughter, was running for school board in Virginia and she lost yesterday.”
In Ohio, voters were asked on the ballot whether the state should have a constitutional amendment that would ensure abortion rights and access to birth control.
Barkdoll said, “It won by an overwhelming margin. Ohio also voted to legalize recreational marijuana yesterday too. But with the Ohio abortion issue, this is now the seventh consecutive state since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, where voters have overwhelmingly chosen to keep abortion rights the law of the land.”
That list includes conservative states like Kentucky, Kansas and now Ohio.
Barkdoll said, “Republicans have a real problem growing when it comes to abortion. There’s something about this issue that is really motivating people to vote and including Republicans that are coming out. Just a thread to keep an eye on with abortion, there’s already reporting yesterday that some states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, maybe even Pennsylvania, there’s going to be a push to get abortion amendments on the ballot next year in conjunction with the presidential election. The Democrats are seeing an opportunity here. They’re seeing that it motivates turnout. They’re thinking it might be a way to help their candidates. I saw a strategy memo yesterday from a friend in Washington, two Republicans saying quit using the word ban for abortion use the word limit instead. Republicans are really struggling to figure out how to address that issue and it’s going to be a problem.”
In Pennsylvania, the Democrats swept the court races.
Barkdoll said, “The Supreme Court, both Superior Court seats and the Commonwealth Court all went to the Democrats. Judge Carluccio, the Republican nominee for that Supreme Court seat, said last night to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it’s the abortion issue that sunk the campaign. I guess the message to the Republican Party is we need to come up with some better messaging on that.”
Jansen said, “When it comes to those races, a couple things. One is the Democrats well outspent Republicans when it came to funding those races and the campaigns and mostly it’s the fear mongering on abortion. Democrats, using the ideology I often talk about, they’ve captured the language and Republicans have not been very good at countering that, not to mention all the help that Democrats have gotten from social media and even much of our mainstream media. It’s an uphill battle now for Republicans. Add all the mail-in voting and ballot harvesting to that. In a way I’m glad it was a wake up call last night. No, those polls on Biden mean nothing when it comes to these other races. You have too many fears on climate, on abortion, on racism and oppression. There’s too much fear mongering. That’s how the Democrats are winning, capturing the language, and ballot harvesting. Republicans better get their act together and learn how to counter this. It doesn’t even seem to matter how bad everybody’s lives are under these policies. They just voted for a bunch of people that are going to continue those policies.”
“It’s such a good point,” Barkdoll agreed. “Last night while the selection stuff was happening, CNN dropped its latest poll on the presidential race and Biden’s approval rating. His approval rating is down to 36 percent. Now Trump wasn’t much better. He was 38 percent. They also showed Trump beating Biden in a one on one matchup. But we have the most unpopular president since Jimmy Carter and his numbers may be even going below Jimmy Carter, but yet you’re seeing around the country yesterday, Democrats had great success in red states, places like Kentucky, Virginia is more of a purple state, Ohio. The Republicans have got to get with somebody like Frank Luntz to come up with better language. This abortion issue is really proving to be super potent. Exit polling in Ohio yesterday they asked voters that voted for this abortion constitutional amendment, give us the one word that was on your mind when you came in here to vote for this, what motivated you? Sixty-four percent of those voters, the top word was angry, not enthusiasm, not health care, angry. They’re also showing that over half of Trump voters showed up to vote in favor of that abortion rights measure. So it is a huge issue. It’s not going away and I think it’s going to continue to be a big issue going into next year. The Republicans need to figure out a way to better manage this issue, better language, better education for voters or it’s going to keep being a problem.”