Primary 2020: Ballots, masks and wipes

Shawn Hardy
Clerk Debbie Young wore red, white and blue clothes, gloves and a face shield as she worked the poll at Grace Bible Church in Antrim Township, where voters in Tuesday's primary election included Michelle Brechbiel, who was accompanied by her 8-year-old daughter, Brooke. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT

Twenty-five percent of Franklin County's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the primary election postponed from April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were few races on the ballot and final statewide results may be days or weeks away. Record numbers of mail-in ballots need to be tallied, including several counties where the deadline was extended because of violent protests over the the death of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

In the unofficial results, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden continued their march toward November with the backing, respectively, of Republican and Democratic voters.

Locally, state Rep, Paul Schemel was unopposed in his bid to return to Harrisburg. The Republican, whose district includes Greencastle and Antrim Township, got 99.26% (6,997) of the vote. There was not Democratic candidate.

A total of 20,894 of Franklin County's 83,376 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday.

Turnout was, as expected, very slow at Grace Bible Church, polling place for Antrim 5, one of the largest districts in Franklin County, according to Edward Hrzic, judge of elections.

The county received around 10,000 requests for absentee ballots— largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone knows who the big candidates are going to be in November and registered Independents can't vote in primary elections, said Hrzic, who is himself an Independent.

By 10:40 a.m., 169 of Antrim 5's more than 3,000 registered voters had cast ballots. In the last president primary, 1,750 voted during the whole day.

Michelle Brechbiel brought her 8-year-old daughter, Brooke, to the poll.

Brechbiel said she always votes in person and felt more comfortable going to the poll than voting by mail.

They were greeted by clerk Debbie Young, decked out in red, white and blue and wearing a face shield. She's worked the polls for about 10 years. Young was initially concerned about COVID-19 because she has asthma, but felt very comfortable because of the face shield.

Voters were directed in alphabetical lines to election staff who all wore gloves, as well as either masks or shields. After voting, people put their pens in a basket. The pens, as well as tables, door handles and the countertops in the voting booths were regularly cleaned with disinfectant wipes.

"I hope this will all end by November, but we'll be prepared," Hrzic said.

At the Greencastle Baptist Church polling location for Antrim 1, another group of volunteers headed by Vonda Meyers also adjusted to the temporary new normal.

"The county provided everything we needed, and we were able to keep the voters safe," Meyers said. "And we have everything we needed to allow them to feel safe and comfortable. I think it was done very well."

Voter Mary Webb said her faith gave her enough confidence to make the trip despite coronavirus risks.

"I trust (them) and Him up there to protect me," said Webb, who said she votes in person every year. "I could just as well get (coronavirus) at home."

Face masks and disinfectant wipes also were election accessories at Grace United Church of Christ, polling place for Greencastle 1, where minority inspector Guy Camp proudly displayed his red, white and blue socks.

John Rishel, judge of elections, said he thought turnout was pretty good considering the circumstances. By noon, 120 of the 1,398 registered voters had visited the poll.


Dan Sostek of Chambersburg Public Opinion contributed to this story.