2017 Election Day Live Blog: Follow City, County And Statewide Races

Nov 7, 2017

Check in throughout the day for 90.5 WESA's continuous coverage of Election Day locally and around the state. 

11:41 p.m.: Two close county council races and upset for longtime judge 

Just before midnight, all precincts in Allegheny County District 3 had reported, indicating Democratic candidate Anita Prizio had clinched a seat over incumbent Republican Ed Kress. Meanwhile, with about 98 percent of precincts in for District 1, Republican incumbent Tom Baker was holding a narrow 120-vote margin over Jack Betkowski, the Democratic candidate.

Civil rights lawyer Mik Pappas celebrated his victory in Pittsburgh's East End after defeating Ron Costa Sr., who held the state's 31st Magisterial District for more than two decades. 

While magisterial district courts are at the bottom of Pennsylvania’s judicial hierarchy, Pappas said they’re the best way to address issues at the neighborhood level.

 

“Opioid addiction, intimate partner violence, truancy, young people not going to school, and of course housing, landlord-tenant matters, people getting addicted, they all converge on this office just begging and looking for a solution, and it’s the best opportunity that we have through this office to actually provide that solution,” he said.

 

Pappas said he feels grateful and encourage by the direction that Pittsburgh is headed in.

 

“The incredible energy that’s out there in support of transforming politics locally to a politics that is centered on finding solutions to those crises that exist at the neighborhood level.” 

 

Pappas received about 55 percent of votes. 

10:55 p.m.: Few issues statewide; about a quarter of registered voters show up

Of the 922,080 registered voters in Allegheny County, about 211,758, or nearly 23 percent, cast a ballot for today's election. 

That's up from about 15 percent in the May primary and way down from last year's general election, when more than 71 percent of registered voters participated. 

Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres wrote in a statement that he saw "no widespread issues" at polling locations throughout the day. He addressed some technical issues in Philadelphia and in York and Chester Counties, but said overall the day ran smoothly, even with severe storms affecting some polling places. 

The state's voter help line, 1-800-VOTESPA answered about 600 calls, Torres said, most of which were about locating where to vote. 

10:10 p.m.: Pappas delivers major upset in district judge race, unseats longtime incumbent

Attorney Mik Pappas has won Pennsylvania's 31st Magisterial District race, unseating Ron Costa, Sr., who held the seat for 24 years.

Mik Pappas, who won the 31st Magisterial District race in a major upset, poses outside his polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pappas, who ran as an Independent, received about 55 percent of the district's votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. He was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and told 90.5 WESA's An-Li Herring that he thinks progressive voters are mobilizing more after last year's elections. 

"That's what kind of this response to 2016 is all about, channeling all that grassroots energy that's out there," Pappas said, "channeling it all into a local election that's going to make a big difference in the lives of a lot of real people out there."

The district includes the neighborhoods of Bloomfield, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Highland Park, Morningside, Stanton Heights and Upper Lawrenceville. 

9:45 p.m.: Philadelphia DA winner expected to "jolt the culture"

As our WHYY colleague Bobby Allyn is reporting, civil rights attorney Larry Krasner was elected district attorney in Philadelphia:

"The widely anticipated win by Krasner has the potential to deliver a major jolt to the culture and priorities of an office still reeling from controversy set in motion by its former leader, Seth Williams, who is serving a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to corruption.

Krasner, who has no prosecutorial experience, now inherits an office with a $38 million budget and 600 lawyers who prosecute more than 40,000 crimes every year."

9:20 p.m.: City races turning out as expected

In the uncontested Pittsburgh mayoral race, Bill Peduto has received 95.77 percent of the vote, with 44 percent of precincts reporting.

Mayor Bill Peduto's election night party held at the Steamfitters Local Union 449 on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Peduto, a Democrat, ran uncontested in his reelection bid.
Credit An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

At Peduto's party at Pittsburgh Steamfitters, supporters said they were encouraged by wins in places like Virginia, where incumbent Democrat Ralph Northam won with an "anti-Trump" message. They said since last year's election, they've seen the Democrat party mobilize in local election.

With 47 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Anthony Coghill leads the District 4 city council race with 80.5 percent of votes. Coghill was expected to win, as Democrats have held the seat for decades.

8:10 p.m.: Polls are closed

Election results are slowly coming in as precincts begin reporting. Nearby, in Virginia, the governor's race is being closely monitored.

7:03 p.m.: Only one city council race this time around

Only one Pittsburgh City Council seat, District 4, is contested in this year’s election. The winner will replace outgoing councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who served in the position for eight years.

Beechview Democrat Anthony Coghill, who owns a roofing company and is the chair of the 19th Ward of the Democratic Committee, is hoping to represent the district. He’s running against Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate, a videographer and activist.

Both candidates said they’d like to focus on infrastructure improvements and finding solutions to the opioid epidemic in their community. 

5:44 p.m.: Last-minute illness and language barriers don't have to stop voters in Pennsylvania

For voters whose first language isn’t English, casting a ballot can be difficult. For the government to provide a translator, 5 percent of eligible voters in a given jurisdiction must require interpretation.

If voters happens to find themselves in the hospitals on Election Day, look for an emergency absentee ballot. They’re available with the help of volunteers from the Election Protection Program and require a doctor’s signature and judge’s approval.

Election Protection Program volunteer Betsy Butler shows off the forms needed to start the process of helping a patient vote using an emergency absentee ballot. Butler was assigned to Magee-Women's Hospital of UPMC.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Formerly incarcerated men and women in Pennsylvania can legally vote, even if they’ve been convicted of a felony.

“Because there are a number of states that require people to take more steps before they can vote if they have a felony conviction, there’s a lot of confusion over who can vote with a criminal conviction in Pennsylvania,” said American Civil Liberties Union Pennsylvania Senior Staff Attorney Sara Rose.

Pennsylvania is one of 14 states that immediately restores voting rights after a resident has completed their prison sentence. 

4:12 p.m.: About those yes/no questions for Pittsburgh, Bethel Park and Monroeville voters

Pittsburgh city employees aren't currently allowed to coach at Pittsburgh Public Schools or teach at public universities, like the Community College of Allegheny County. But that could change with the results of a Home Rule Charter ballot initiative.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

For Pittsburgh city residents, ballots will include a question about city employees working part-time as coaches for Pittsburgh Public Schools or educators at a college, as explained by The Incline. Results of the question would change the city’s Home Rule Charter, which is why it’s required to be on the ballot.

Bethel Park voters have four questions about the community’s budget, council meetings and future development plans. In Monroeville, residents will decide on the roles of municipal employees and requirements for police leaders.  

3:05 p.m.: Meet the Allegheny County Council candidates

Allegheny County Council has four contested seats this election, with each district prioritizing different issues. Take a look at our previous reporting to see who's running in each district and what the candidates pledge to focus on if elected: 

District 1: Republican incumbent County Councilman Tom Baker and Democrat Jack Betkowski focused on combating the opioid crisis and increasing accessibility

District 3: Republican Incumbent Ed Kress and Democrat Anita Prizio are also focused on the opioid crisis, as well as environmental issues

District 4: Democratic candidate Patrick Catena and Republican Dimitrios Pantzoulas are focused on spending and improving intergovernmental communication

District 8: Incumbent Democrat Charles Martoni and challenger Republican Mike Dell say they're focused on growing the tax base in their district. 

1:20 p.m.: Who's funding Pennsylvania's judicial races? And why do we have partisan judicial elections?

Pennsylvania's judicial races are the big ones to watch this election. They're also being fueled by big money. As our news partners at WHYY in Philadelphia report, 15 candidates have raised $4 million since the primany, half of which was given in contributions of $10,000 or more

And Pennsylvania is one of the only states that has partisan judicial elections. In other states, the governor or a special commission appoints judges. Some states mix appointments and elections, some use non-partisan elections. As one political science professor explained before the primary, having candidates' political ideologies out in the open can offer a more transparent process. Find out more in our explainer here

11:02 a.m.: Could Pennsylvania see an end to property taxes?

Credit Gene J. Puskar / AP

One thing Pennsylvanians will decide this Election Day is whether the commonwealth should take the first step toward eliminated property taxes. According to 90.5 WESA's Katie Meyer,  property tax rates largely depend on how much school districts and local governments decide to exempt from taxation. 

Right now, state law lets them exclude up to 50 percent of an area’s median home value. But the ballot measure would increase that cap to 100 percent—so jurisdictions could opt to totally eliminate property taxes. That's the simple explanation, it's a little more complicated than that, as she explains here. 

9:45 a.m.: Judicial election spending

The 2015 Pennsylvania judicial race broke the record for costliest Supreme Court race in U.S. history, with $15.8 million spent on the campaigns.

So, how does this year compare? 90.5 WESA’s Kathleen J. Davis takes a look at the race between Republican Sallie Mundy and Democrat Dwayne D. Woodruff.

8:49 a.m.: Would you like soup with your vote?

Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Election Day is a day to make your voice heard on political issues, but it’s also a huge fundraising opportunity for local churches and community groups.

Though Election Day fundraisers seem to have fallen out of favor in more recent years, they can bring in hundreds for these organizations. From pancake dinners to soup sales, check out our previous reporting on Pennsylvania’s rich history of Election Day fundraisers.

7:45 a.m.: Not sure which justice to vote for? Let the bar association help

Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP

One of Pennsylvania's biggest races is for the state's Supreme Court.  Democratic Allegheny County Judge, and former Steelers cornerback, Dwayne Woodruff is challenging incumbent Republican Justice Sallie Mundy. 

Candidates will also vie for seats on the state's Superior and Commonwealth courts. For a quick breakdown of the candidates and their qualifications, visit the Pennsylvania Bar Association's website for its ratings

7:05 a.m.: Know your rights

Although this election day might have less hotly contested races than last year’s presidential election, voter intimidation can still happen – and it’s prohibited by Pennsylvania law.

The law states that campaign workers must stay at least 10 feet away from the entrance of a polling place. Check out this post for more on how to know if you’re being intimidated at the polls.

6 a.m.: Get ready to vote

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Here's a quick breakdown as election day gets underway:

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Allegheny County. 

Check out where your polling place is by typing in your address here

You can also view your sample ballot online here

For a breakdown of the 2017 judicial races, check out this primer

Pennsylvanians will also have an opportunity to vote on whether the state should take the first step toward eliminating property tax

You can also find out where contested Allegheny County Council candidates stand on the issues here: District 1District 3, District 4 and District 8