Both parties claim victories in Montco elections

Officials across Montgomery County said they were pleased with the 24.44 percent turnout for Tuesday's municipal election.  Many had placed their bets on 20 percent or less. But yesterday's total was roughly the same as turnout for the last comparable election, in 2009, at 24.61 percent.

Democrats won the only countywide races -- Gail Weilheimer and Steven C. Tolliver for Court of Common Pleas, Jack McVay for Superior Court, and incumbent Joanne Cisco Olszewski for jury commissioner.  But the margins were narrow -- 0.41 percentage points for Tolliver, 1.16 for Weilheimer and 3.28 points for McVay.

"I feel great. A little exhausted after the pace we've been on," Weilheimer said late Tuesday night. "This is an off-year election, but I really appreciate that the voters ... took time to get to know our qualifications."

Republicans, on the other hand, won swept what they called "hotly contested" municipal races in Hatboro, Hatfield township and borough, Lower Moreland, West Norriton, Upper Moreland and Horsham

“Horsham Township is a perfect example of the success the Republican Party has when we’re organized, have candidates who work hard and effectively communicate our message,” said Robert J. Kerns, chairman of the county Republican Committee. “The Democrats threw everything, including endorsements from Ed Rendell and Bill Clinton to go along with their Philadelphia union money at us and we still beat them.”

The parties split wins in Conshohocken, Lansdale, Pottstown, Abington, Whitemarsh, and Upper Merion.  Democrats swept elections in Ambler, Norristown, Upper Dublin, Bridgeport, Jenkintown and Cheltenham.

Republicans also fared well in school races, sweeping seats in six districts, compared with Democrats' two.  (Another 6 districts saw split results.)

Adding it all up

From the county's perspective, the election went smoothly.

On the 6th floor of One Montgomery Plaza, the smell of pizza lingered as staff waited for results to come in around 8 p.m.

"There's no storm, only calm," said county Solicitor Raymond McGarry.

"It's been slow," said Assistant Director of Voter Services Patti Allen. "But whether it's 1 million or 1,000 voters, we're still all here."

Michael Morsch, working his first Election Day as Voter Services Director, said it was a "completely different" experience from his previous job as a journalist. "There's a lot more 'hurry up and wait' in the newsroom. Here, the waiting was filled with issues we had to address," he said. Some of those issues included campaign literature that didn't have the source identified, and minor questions from poll workers about the voting machines.

Commissioner Leslie Richards, who chairs the Election Board, said she only fielded one question, about placement of a state Voter ID sign -- and it was answered by 6:57 a.m. 

Richards was thrilled to report that two polling places in her hometown, Whitemarsh, saw turnout over 35 percent.

The county was testing a program to count votes from far western districts in Pottstown, rather than driving the cartridges 40 minutes to Norristown.

The electronic transmission to Norristown appeared to work well, as County COO Lauren Lambrugo announced: "First cartridge loaded -- Pottstown, 8:33 p.m."  But whether that sped up the entire process of ballot-counting remains to be seen. The last precincts came in around 11:30 p.m. -- half an hour earlier than last year's election, but half an hour later than Richards was aiming for last week.