County election officials ready for light primary

Election officials in Venango and Clarion counties say things are on track at their offices in preparation for Tuesday’s primary.

Contested races are few and far between on area ballots in this municipal election cycle. The two state ballot questions dealing with disaster emergency declarations seem to be drawing the most interest.

“We’re on track and doing well,” Sabrina Backer, Venango County’s director of elections, said Wednesday. “November taught us a lot.”

The elections office sent out 2,636 mail-in ballots and had received 1,126 ballots back as of Tuesday, Backer said. She added that the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot has passed.

In the fall of 2020 leading up to the Trump-Biden presidential election, Venango County sent out close to 8,000 mail-in ballots, Backer said.

Backer said the turnout for a municipal primary election is usually low.

“The highest turnout for the last three municipal primary elections was just under 30% for Republicans and just under 20% for Democrats,” Backer said.

Backer noted that what was thought to be a contested race for the Republican nomination for sheriff won’t happen as Christopher Morgan was removed from the ballot by court order.

Signatures on Morgan’s petition were contested, and it was found he had fewer than the required 100 signatures from Republicans on his petition, Backer said. She explained that some of the signatures were from Democrats.

That means incumbent sheriff Eric Foy will be the lone GOP candidate on the ballot.

A public testing of the voting machines will take place at 9 a.m. Friday at the Courthouse Annex, Backer said.

Backer said she could use several more pollworkers to help check people in to vote using the county’s poll pads.

The are no changes to polling locations in Venango County this election, Backer said.

Clarion County activity

In Clarion County, elections director Cindy Callihan said requests for mail-in ballots this year fell by almost one half from 2020.

“In February we sent out a reminder to the people that had requested an annual ballot. The majority of the requests came from that,” Callihan said.

Callihan said 1,527 people applied for mail-in ballots – 535 Republicans, 898 Democrats and 94 non-partisan.

There are 23,636 registered voters in Clarion County, a decrease of 76 from the 23,712 registered voters last year. Callihan said this year’s breakdown by party wasn’t immediately available, but last year there were 14,226 Republicans and 6,807 Democrats registered in the county.

Callihan is planning ahead for the 2022 election.

“On election day we’ll have a notice put out to interest people in serving as pollworkers,” she said.

She also noted that positions such as judge of election and inspector of election will be up for election.

“My goal is to get anyone who is interested in being a pollworker so they can learn the ropes from the ones who in there now. That way when they go through my training they will know a little more about what we do,” Callihan said.

There is one polling location change in the county as Marwick Boyd Auditorium will be used for Clarion Borough’s third precinct.

Polls will be open across the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.