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More than 40% of voters in Cambria and Somerset participated in Tuesday’s general election to decide on several row office races.

In Cambria County, 41% of voters cast ballots at 125 precincts, according to Shirley Crowl, director of elections.

It was the county’s first time using its new voting system in accordance with a 2018 directive from the state to implement new voting systems no later than the 2020 primary election.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reported that Tuesday’s election saw no widespread problems as 67% of Pennsylvania’s counties deployed new voting systems that are more secure, accessible and auditable.

“We are very pleased to report that the election was carried out statewide with little incident,” she said. “That’s especially impressive given that 45 counties were using new voting systems today. Thanks to hard-working county election officials, well-trained poll workers and well-informed voters, the majority of the state saw only isolated issues.”

The election response team assembled at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) responded to and monitored 29 issues throughout the day. The issues ranged from reports of a gas leak in one precinct to power outages at several polling places. County election officials worked with local authorities to resolve the issues, and voters still cast their ballots in those locations, according to Boockvar’s release.

In Cambria County, Crowl said there were a few issues that were resolved within minutes.

Technicians from ES&S Voting Machine Systems were in town Tuesday for assistance and Crowl spent hours conducting more than two dozen training sessions with poll workers throughout August and September in preparation.

Somerset County had a voter turnout of 43%, according to Tina Pritts, director of elections.

“Overall, it went really well,” she said. “I’m so impressed.”

It was Somerset County’s last time using its current voting system, which was introduced in 2006.

Somerset County’s commissioners have also selected ES&S Voting Machine Systems as their vendor, but are still deciding on a model to purchase ahead of the 2020 primary.

Turnout in both counties was above that of the general election in 2015, during which many of the same races were decided.

Cambria County saw 36% of voters participate in the 2015 general election, while Somerset County’s turnout was 37.5%.

Voter turnout of nearly 60% in last year’s general election took many by surprise.

In Somerset County, the biggest races were for commissioner and district attorney.

Incumbents Gerald Walker, a Republican, and Pamela A. Tokar-Ickes, a Democrat, were re-elected, along with Colleen Dawson, a Republican.

Unofficial results showed Walker received 11,977 votes, or 33.77% of the total vote, while Tokar-Ickes earned 7,061 votes or 19.91%.

Dawson got 11,605 votes or 32.72%, while Democratic candidate Daniel L. Hillegas fell in behind with 4,772 votes or 13.46% of the total.

In the race for Somerset County District Attorney, Republican Jeffrey Thomas upset incumbent Democrat Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser. Unofficial results showed Thomas earning 60.29% of the total vote, or 11,381 votes, while Lazzari-Strasiser received 7,480 votes, or 39.63%.

In Cambria County, numerous row offices were up for grabs, including three vacancies created by upcoming retirements.

Four candidates sought three seats on the county’s board of commissioners, which resulted in the re-election of two incumbent Democrats and election of a Republican candidate who sought the position in 2015.

President Commissioner Tom Chernisky earned 18,792 votes, or 31.1% of the total vote, according to unofficial results, while his running mate, Commissioner William “B.J.” Smith earned 14,589 votes or 24.2%.

Upper Yoder Township Supervisor Scott Hunt received 15,214 votes or 25.2% of the total to earn him a spot on the board.

Jerry Carnicella, of Patton, fell short with 11,452 votes or 19%.

Cambria County voters also elected a new district attorney.

Incumbent Democrat Kelly Callihan, who earned 15,408 votes or 46.1% of the total, was defeated by Republican challenger Greg Neugebauer, who received 17,961 votes or 53.8%.

Lisa Pudliner Crynock, of Jackson Township, and Max Pavlovich, of Johnstown, were elected to fill upcoming vacancies from the retirements of Cambria County Prothonotary Debbie Martella and Cambria County Clerk of Courts Susan Kuhar, respectively.

Crynock, a Republican, received 19,422 votes or 59.9%, while Democrat Carla Portash, a Portage resident and current first deputy of the prothonotary’s office, earned 12,978 votes or 40%.

Pavlovich, a Democrat, earned 16,763 votes or 51.1% against Republican Paul Seitz, of Geistown, who received 16,005 votes or 48.8%.

Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic Jr., of West Taylor Township, and Treasurer Lisa Kozorosky, of Ebensburg, both Democrats, were able to hold onto their seats.

Cernic received 17,329 votes or 52.3% against Republican Steve Dillon, of Nicktown, who received 15,798 votes or 47.7%. Kozorosky earned 17,476 votes or 53.9% against Teena Bafile Petrus, of Westmont, who received 14,927 votes or 46%.

Democrat Cindy Perrone, of Northern Cambria, a longtime staff member in the county’s register of wills office, was elected to replace Patty Sharbaugh, who’s retiring at the end of the year.

Perrone received 16,691 votes or 51.4% against Jared Bowling, of Ebensburg, who earned 15,769 votes or 48.6%.

Melissa Kimla, a Republican and former staff member of the county’s recorder of deeds office, defeated incumbent Democrat Ray Wendekier, who is finishing his first term in office.

Kimla received 18,114 votes or 55.8% and Wendekier received 14,325 votes or 44.1%.

Crowl said she still has about 150 absentee ballots to add to the unofficial vote totals. A majority of absentees were counted and included in the unofficial results, but 150 could not be read by the new machines due to how they were folded, she said.

Unofficial results also showed 32,079 Cambria County voters cast straight-party ballots for Republican candidates, and 26,043 voters chose to cast straight-party ballots for Democratic candidates, Crowl said.

Cambria County’s voter registration by political party has continued to change, following a trend that began ahead of the 2016 presidential election in which a historically Democratic Cambria County showed support of Republican Donald Trump.

As of Oct. 7, Cambria County had 38,935 registered Democrats and 34,478 registered Republicans, leaving the spread between the two political parties at fewer than 4,500 voters.

Cambria County has a total of 81,883 registered voters.

Within the city of Johnstown, however, the spread still favors the Democrats. There are 6,155 registered Democrats and 2,684 registered Republicans out of the city’s 10,224 total voters.

In the November 2015 general election, Cambria County had 46,258 registered Democrats, 27,266 registered Republicans and a total of 81,718 registered voters, according to the Department of State.

​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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