(NOTE: This post will be updated throughout the day with photos from polling places, please scroll down to see new scenes.)
At 65, Tamara Cline voted for the first time Tuesday.
“I never cared before,” Cline said after voting at SonRise Church in Unity Twp in Westmoreland County.
“I was a little nervous going in, but… it was pretty easy,” she said.
Cline carried a handwritten list into the voting booth with the names of both candidates and convention delegates for whom she planned to vote.
The daughter of staunch Democratic parents, she said she registered as a Republican – to vote for Donald Trump.
It was a wet election day morning in Western Pennsylvania. Really wet.
Like Biblically wet…
But the skies cleared, and only isolated thunderstorms were forecasted as the day wears on. That means the old chestnut about only the die-hard voters showing up to the polls likely won’t apply. That could be significant in this year of The Outsider in both national and state politics. For a quick recap (click the links for in-depth coverage):
In the Republican race for President, Donald Trump is the frontrunner, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are doing their best to make sure he remains shy of the required majority of delegates, thereby forcing a contested convention in Cleveland this July.
If Pennsylvania’s Republican delegate system confuses you, you are not alone. National media have been scratching their heads over it for the past month. The L.A. Times said, “If this year’s presidential primaries offer an education on the nation’s byzantine voting rules, Pennsylvania may need its own extra-credit seminar.”
In a nutshell:
17 of the state’s 71 delegates are appointed and must vote for the candidate who wins the state. The other 54 are elected — three from each district — and under party rules will be “unbound” at the GOP convention, meaning they can vote to nominate whomever they want, regardless of the primary’s outcome.
Yep. You read that right. They can vote for whomever they want, and they can change their mind at any time between now and July. That puts Pennsylvania in the thick of it politically.
The Tribune-Review surveyed all the delegate candidates, and the majority said they would vote the way their district votes. Click here to read where they say they stand.
But perhaps the most interesting race on the Democratic ballot is the race for U.S. Senate.
Not least because a last-minute decision by the PA Supreme Court to put Joe Vodvarka back on the ballot made some county elections officials scramble to accommodate the change. In at least one Pennsylvania county, they decided to revert to paper ballots for the Senate Race.
Larry Spahr, director of elections in Washington County, said the county’s only option for getting Vodvarka’s name on the ballot in time was to put that specific race on a paper ballot.
So don’t expect any early Senate results from Washington County: they won’t count the paper ballots until Wednesday afternoon or maybe Thursday, after they’ve counted the 1,700 absentee ballots, Spahr said.
Senate candidate Katie McGinty’s campaign manager, Mike Mikus, alerted her supporters to the issue over Facebook. Mikus said Tuesday morning that he had poll watchers in Washington County and that there really hadn’t been any issues to speak of thus far.
Washington County is the only county that is providing a supplemental ballot.
Columbia and Lancaster counties were also unable to get Vodvarka’s name on the ballot. Advisories have been issued to Democratic voters there that if they wish to vote for him, they must vote for him as a write-in candidate, according to a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.
At least one precinct in Westmoreland County experienced a glitch Tuesday morning.
Lower Burrell resident and former Westmoreland County Judge David Regoli tweeted that the voting machines at the city’s polling place at Puckety Presbyterian Church were inoperative at 7 a.m. and voters were turned away.
Shari Wright, deputy director of the Westmoreland County Bureau of Elections said the polling place was just “a few minutes ” late in opening and that they were told no one was turned away.
Voters were waiting in line about 15-20 minutes outside Christ’s Lutheran Church in Murrysville, but said some years wait times have topped an hour.
Louis Intrieri said he changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican so he can vote for businessman Donald Trump this year.
He said he usually only worried about the general election.
“I’m starting to see the primary election is like the general election,” he said.
Intrieri also researched delegates and brought a list of which people he planned to vote for.
“My vote isn’t as impactful if I don’t know the delegates.”
Republicans Jim & Shari Jarrett, casting ballots at Trinity United Christian Church in Lower Burrell, were at the other end of the political spectrum: Republicans unenthusiastic about their choices.
Shari Jarrett said she wrote in Bernie Sanders on her Republican ballot.
“I didn’t like the junior high antics” by the candidates on the Republican side, she said.
Jim Jarrett said the GOP has no good candidates in 2016.
“Call it a protest vote, but I voted for Kasich,” he said, adding that he thought Trump is “all rhetoric and no plan.”
The Kim Quoc Sunrise on Potomac Avenue is under construction, and some voters went to a door propped partially open, according to poll workers. It was, however, the wrong door, and the prospective voters encountered caution tape.
Election workers placed signs directing voters to the correct door at the back of the church.
When a Tribune-Review reporter visited the site, the polling location was clearly marked.
Some voters in the carbon section of Hempfield Township in Westmoreland County were confused as to whether they could vote at Saint Paul Parish. Voter Joyce Oliver, 68, said there were no signs indicating the church was a polling place, nor were there any campaign workers or volunteers standing outside.
A teacher at the church’s school told Oliver there was no voting there today because school was in session.
“You don’t go barging into a school — not these days,” said Oliver.
But Oliver said she was determined to vote for “my girl Hillary” and went back.
Voters should follow signs for the church office to find the polling place.
Another race that many will be watching is the attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.
Gordon Marburger, a fourth-generation farmer and school bus driver in Butler County, came so close to unseating Metcalfe with a primary write-in campaign two years ago, he’s taking one more good swing at it.
During his nine terms in Harrisburg, Metcalfe has made himself a statewide icon of the hard right. He is among the Capitol’s staunchest gun rights advocates, having for 11 years hosted a Second Amendment rally of gun owners and their firearms on the front steps of the Capitol. His outspoken conservatism on social issues makes headlines. He once tried to prevent Philadelphia’s Rep. Brian Sims from speaking on the House floor in favor of same-sex marriage.
Marburger and his supporters think their state representative should spend less time on hot-button, headline-grabbing issues and more time on local concerns.
Tribune-Review reporters Megan Guza and Elizabeth Behrman contributed.