WILKES-BARRE – The Democratic Party showed its strength in Luzerne County on Tuesday, giving large vote totals to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and all statewide office seekers.
Turnout, while stronger than the 35 percent seen in off-year elections, was down to 64.7 percent compared to 73.5 percent in the 2008 presidential election.
And the county went Democratic in most races. In the contest for the White House, Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney 63,970 votes to 57,979, according to unofficial final results posted online by the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections.
Scranton native U.S. Sen. Bob Casey easily defeated newcomer Tom Smith and Luzerne County came through for him. Casey garnered 66,600 votes in the county to 52,859 for Smith.
With a strong Democratic advantage in voter registration, Democrats showed their strength in all races. Incumbent Democratic state legislators Phyllis Mundy (120th), Gerald Mullery (119th) and Mike Carroll (118th) won clear victories.
In statewide races, Kathleen Kane (attorney general), Eugene DePasquale (auditor general), and Robert McCord (treasurer) received large pluralities in the county.
Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta easily won a second term and he received a 15,000-vote cushion in the county over his Democratic challenger Gene Stilp of Dauphin County.
The reasons for voting were as varied as the voters who turned out Tuesday across Luzerne County. Cool weather and sunny skies offered no impediment to turnout on an Election Day that included a contentious presidential race, although one that had largely ignored Pennsylvania until the closing days.
Here's a roundup from around the county.
Nicholas Toeroek, 50, of Avoca, voted straight Democrat and said he had no qualms about doing so. He said Obama came into office four years ago with two wars, a growing debt and issues on Wall Street that had caused the country to fall into a recession. He said he believes Obama has done his best to turn things around and he's willing to give him four more years to right the ship. By a very slim margin, I believe they (Democrats) would do a better job than the Republicans would, said Toeroek.
Carol Hadley said she's voted for Republicans in the past, but in this election there was nobody on the Republican side that I wanted.
By 1:30 p.m., 400 votes had been cast at the Dallas Borough municipal building in a district with about 1,100 registered voters, said Linda McDermott, judge of elections.
When we started out it was a line right out the door, she said, and had been steady since. We've had no breaks.
Republican Committeeman Terry Casey, watching the voting while sneaking bites from a sandwich, said absentee ballots were way up at Dallas and Kingston Township polling places he surveyed. (They) were twice what we usually have, he said.
I think it's important to vote for who will be president, said Thomas Lahart, of Kingston. I just hope the right guy gets in there, although declining to say who he felt that was.
Poll workers at the Kingston Recreation Center on Third Avenue in Kingston, where residents of the 7th and 8th wards vote, reported more than 50 percent turnout by 3 p.m.
I'm voting on the economy and family values, said Joe Casey of Kingston. I think the high turnout will favor the challengers.
As voters walked in and out of the rec center, Mimi Cohen said it was important for people to exercise their right to vote. Bill Urbanski, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Committee, believed high turnout would favor GOP candidates.
All along I've said the enthusiasm is on our side, he said.
At the Trucksville United Methodist Church education building, the voting place for Kingston Township District 3, the cookie poll indicated a potential record turnout, with 200 Election Day meals served by 3 p.m., compared to a total of 260 in 2008.
Todd Calkins waited in a line of about 25 to cast his vote. The union member said he wasn't enthusiastic about either candidate, but felt Romney won't be good for the country. I'm mainly here to try and protect my job, he said.
At the Lee Park Towers retirement community in Hanover Township, 744 of 1,700 registered voters in the district had cast ballots by 4 p.m. Norman Kirkpatrick, the district's judge of elections, called it a good turnout, better than in other recent elections.
Karen Kaschak, judge of elections for 12 years in the Third Ward, Second District of West Hazleton borough, said turnout was heavy, more people than I've ever seen before. Kaschak said one issue that came up at the polling place was language barriers with several Spanish-speaking residents.
It's difficult if they need to use the Hispanic (voting screen) and ask us a question. We're kind of at a loss, Kaschak said.
All Latino voters, however, were absolutely able to cast their ballots, she said, adding that poll workers used candidate name recognition to help the Spanish-speaking voters. Borough resident Melody Dehaza, 19, said her first time voting on Tuesday was a good experience.
She voted for Obama because I'm a student at (Luzerne County Community College) and, from what I hear, he's more for helping students further their career. … I'd rather have someone who's going to help me in my future.
James Bartosevich, 30, said he voted for Romney mainly because of everything I've seen from Obama, he's very, very ineffective. He said he would cut the deficit and the deficit nearly doubled, I disagree with his energy policy and him picking and choosing which businesses will get financial help.
In Wright Township's First District, Judge of Elections Barbara Stutt said voter turnout was very good. We're over half of our registered voters and it's only 4 o'clock.
Stutt said she expected comparable numbers to the 2008 general election, when the township saw an 85-percent voter turnout. There was a line waiting to get in at 6:30 this morning. We had a steady hour and a half of voting. … And it will pick up again when people get out of work, she said.
Stutt said some people did not want to show photo identification when asked, and that's all right, they don't have to. But most people did.