Some voters in South Bethlehem were forced to cast provisional ballots, in part, because a judge of elections didn’t follow proper procedures, according to poll observers.
The judge allegedly passed out provisional ballots rather than place a call to the Northampton County Election Bureau to verify the voter’s registration status, according to Bethlehem City Councilman Michael Recchiuti, an attorney who was working as a poll observer for the Democratic Party.
Some voters walked away, Recchiuti said.
The judge in Bethlehem’s Fifth Ward, Dick Jones, said he didn’t do anything wrong.
“We could call 10 times and all we’d get was a busy signal,” said Dick Jones, the Fifth Ward judge, pointing to a cell phone on the table where he worked in the auditorium of the St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church. “We’re swamped.”
The presence of two polling stations in one building may have created some of the confusion, according to Joe Welsh of the American Civil Liberties Union of the Lehigh Valley.
Another problem: None of the workers at the Fifth Ward polling station spoke Spanish for a district that has many Spanish-speaking voters.
Despite the problems, voters said the wait to vote at the station was less than it had been in 2008.
“It’s worth it to me no matter how long it took,” said Tina Hayes, who waited 20 minutes to vote. Motivated by “women’s issues,” she said she wanted to do her part to make sure things end up “in the right hands.”
Women's issues were also a big concern to Patricia Aviles, who voted at Broughal Middle School earlier in the day. Mitt Romney's threats to abortion rights and Planned Parenthood were worrisome to her.
More election day coverage:
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- Barack Obama Re-Elected President
- Pennsylvania Election Results 2012
- Dent Easily Wins Fifth Term in Congress
- Matt Cartwright Wins 17th District Seat
- McNeill Wins 133rd House Race
- Samuelson Coasts to Victory in 135th District
- Marcia Hahn Retains 138th House Seat
Update 5:10 p.m. The Obama campaign office just sent over two Spanish-language translators to St. John's Windish Church to help Spanish-speaking voters at the polls. The fifth ward, which votes at the church, had no Spanish-speaking workers there, according to city councilman Michael Recchiuti.
Meanwhile, there are allegations that the judge of elections is not following proper procedures here, Recchiuti said. The judge of elections is turning away voters who do not show up on his rolls, or handing them provisional ballots, rather than calling the Northampton County voter registration office, he said. However, Recchiuti acknowledged that it is difficult to get through to the office.
Update 4:15 p.m. Line of voters at St. John's Windish Church waited to cast their ballots. Both the 4th and 5th wards vote here.
Update 3:30 p.m. Steady stream but no long lines at Broughal Middle School. Ward 2 judge says turnout a little lighter than 2008.
Polls have shown the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tightening in the days before today's election.
The following is a look back at how Bethlehem area voters cast their ballots in the 2004 and 2008 presidential contests:
The city of Bethlehem lived up to its reputation as a Democratic stronghold in 2004 and 2008.
Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 handily won in the city.
Although he lost the national contest to President George W. Bush, Kerry easily won in Bethlehem, 18,029 to 11,882. The city was a Kerry campaign stop in March 2004, when he attended Sunday Mass at the former Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church on the SouthSide.
Obama did even better in 2008, getting more than twice the number of votes in Bethlehem as Republican challenger Sen. John McCain. Obama won, 21,616 to 10,186.
In 2004, Kerry had comfortable margins in both the city’s Lehigh County and Northampton County precincts. Kerry got 5,031 votes to Bush’s 3,764 in Lehigh County, while winning the Northampton County precincts, 12,998 to 8,118.
Obama’s margin of victory in the Lehigh County precincts – 5,626 to 3,065 – was not overwhelming, but he really poured it on in Northampton County, winning 15,990 to 7,121.
Obama might be remembered for his April 2008 visit to Bethlehem on the same Sunday afternoon that Democratic challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton was speaking to supporters at Liberty High School. The future president stopped by to tip an elbow at the downtown Bethlehem Brew Works.
Elsewhere, the boroughs of Freemansburg and Fountain Hill mirrored its larger neighbor in supporting the Democratic candidates in 2004 and 2008. Kerry took Freemansburg, 556 to 337, while in Fountain Hill the Democrat posted an almost 2-1 margin, 1,268 to 650.
Obama won by more than a 2-1 margin in Freemansburg, 655 to 302, while in Fountain Hill his margin approached 3-1 – 1,359 to 571.
The picture in suburbia, however, was different in both years. Bush beat Kerry in Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township (Northampton County). Obama and McCain split the two townships, with McCain winning in Bethlehem Township and Obama just getting by McCain in Hanover Township.
The totals in 2004 were:
- Bethlehem Township – Bush, 5,792; Kerry, 5,579.
- Hanover Township – Bush, 3.085; Kerry, 2,476.
The totals in 2008 were:
- Bethlehem Township – McCain, 6,850; Obama, 6,249.
- Hanover Township – Obama, 3,039; McCain, 2,982.
For a look at all the candidates in all the races, check out our Bethlehem Patch Election Guide.
Stay with Patch all day as we update this article with news and information from the polls and live election results after 9 p.m.
LIVE 2012 ELECTION RESULTS
Obama-Biden22,871 Romney-Ryan 15,285 U.S. Senate
Bob Casey24,314 Tom Smith 14,357
Rick Daugherty16,829 Charlie Dent 11,239
17th DistrictMatt Cartwright Laureen Cummings 17th Total PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane David Freed PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale John Maher PA Treasurer Robert McCord Diana Vaughn 138th State House Leslie Altieri 2,725 Marcia Hahn 3,273 138th Total 11,595 18,805 135th State House Steve Samuelson 16,431 Kenneth Barreto
7,118135th Total 18,036 7,759 133rd State House Dan McNeill 4,469 Dave Molony 1,509 133rd Total 13,291 7,277