On Tuesday, Northampton County faced errors with the new digital machines during the election. The machines failed to register votes for Abe Kassis (D), producing the impression of a lopsided result until the ballots could be fixed.  (Emma Satin/B&W Staff)

Northampton County 2019 election wrap-up

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The night of Tuesday, Nov. 5, saw success for Democrats around the country, as well as in the Lehigh Valley. 

For the first time in decades, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners is under primarily Democratic control, but in Northampton County, voting machine errors threw a wrench into some races. 

In several precincts, new voting machines failed to register votes for Abe Kassis (D), producing the impression of a lopsided result until the ballots could be fixed.   

Votes in Northampton County were cast on new digital machines, but recorded on paper ballots to ensure vote security and to prevent technological difficulties from interfering with accurate results. 

“What happened is, the news sources get the totals from the people who work inside the polls. They call it in at the end of the night, and they’re just reading off the tape, so they can’t read digitally, off of the memory card,” said Matt Munsey, chairman of the Northampton County Democratic Party.

Only 27.68 percent of eligible, registered voters reported to the Northampton County polls.

Low voter turnout is not a new phenomenon for Northampton County, whose local election statistics have remained generally stagnant over the past decade. In 2017, the turnout was 22.54 percent, and in 2015, it was 20.64 percent

Brandon Judge, ‘21, the vice president of the Lehigh Student Political Action Coalition, said low voter turnout — or voter apathy — is a serious issue, especially among Lehigh students. 

“A lot of people here tend to be disengaged from the issues that impact most Americans, so it’s hard to get people involved and actively participating in our political process,” Judge said. 

While Lehigh students are not always directly impacted by local election results, many of the candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot prioritize prominent social issues such as the marijuana possession policy and local law enforcement.

“A big issue pertained to Bethlehem’s marijuana policy, which has recently been changed to just a ticket,” Judge said. “Lehigh students, being college students, could be potentially severely impacted by these policies in the event that they are caught using marijuana.” 

Lehigh currently does not provide any candidate information to students or urge political action, aside from student-run organizations, such as the Student Political Action Coalition, College Democrats and College Republicans. 

Judge said he thinks it’s important for Lehigh students to get involved and vote.

“I think it would do students a lot of good if there was some sort of way to learn about the candidates more easily,” Judge said. “When you don’t know who you’re voting for, it makes sense why people wouldn’t want to vote.”

Many students are not registered to vote in Bethlehem, which also contributes to low student voter turnout. While students registered at 4 Farrington Square — Lehigh’s mailing address — are eligible to vote close by at Litzenberger House on East Fourth Street, other registration addresses result in further polling places, often inaccessible for students. 

“It is a great experience to vote, that I did not want to miss,” said Steven Escobar Mendez, ‘22, a member of the Student Political Action Coalition. “It is a powerful right that we have.”

Bethlehem Results:

Judge of the Superior Court: Daniel McCaffery (D) and Megan McCarthy King (R) were both elected to the second-highest court in the state.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas: While difficulties with voting machines obscured the results for these two county judicial seats, it was ultimately determined that John Morganelli (R/D) and Abe Kassis (D) had won.

District Attorney: Terry Houck (D) won with over 55 percent of the vote.

County Controller: Tony Bassil (D) won with over 52 percent of the vote.

County Council District 1: Kevin Lott won re-election unopposed.

School Director – At-Large Bethlehem Area School District: Democrats Dean Donaher, Karen Beck Pooley and Emily Schenkel all won, defeating Kyle Miceli (R).

Bethlehem City Council: All four members of the Bethlehem City Council who were on the ballot won re-election unopposed. All four are Democrats.

Bethlehem City Treasurer: Kaija Farber won unopposed.

Judicial Retention: All four judges on the ballot statewide were retained, all with majorities of over 70 percent.  

Marsy’s Law Referendum: On Nov. 4, the day before Election Day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the results for Marsy’s Law could not be certified for the time being.  This comes after a lawsuit by the Pennsylvania League of Women’s Voters, which contended the law was far too broad to be part of only one referendum. Despite this ruling, the results were tallied and published by the Pennsylvania Department of State, and nearly 74 percent of Pennsylvania voters backed the law.

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