Attendance at Monroe County polling locations was sparse on Tuesday according to volunteers, though plenty of votes still rolled in from the widely-promoted mail-in option.
Judges of elections and volunteers stated that in-person turnout in Monroe County was relatively low as of noon on June 2, with several possible explanations ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to a case of not having a horse in the race, so to speak.
While polling locations were well-equipped to handle socially-distant voting, the appeal of avoiding public spaces altogether drove many to submit mail-in ballots instead.
On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf provided voters in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties extensions to drop off or mail ballots by June 9, provided the ballots were postmarked no later than June 2. The governor cited "a major public health crisis and civil unrest during an election" as motivations for his action.
Voters in Monroe County, however, had to adhere to the established rules, with all mail-in and absentee ballots due by 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Voters were required to wear masks at polling places and keep six feet apart from other voters. Hand sanitizer stations were available to voters, and people were not allowed to use the same pens.
Over at East Stroudsburg University’s Dansbury Commons, which functioned as the polling location for East Stroudsburg’s first through fourth wards, was rather quiet throughout the morning, volunteers said.
"I think people that are showing up probably feel an obligation to get out and vote, which is admirable, but with the advent of the mail-in and the absentee (ballots) and the coronavirus, I fully expected it to be slow," Susan Randall, judge of elections for East Stroudsburg’s first ward, said.
Randall, whose ward saw just over 20 votes by the early afternoon, also said that the primaries tend to draw fewer voters in her area overall, and paired with the fact that it wasn’t a particularly locally-oriented ballot, turnout was low— as expected.
"I would say (traffic) would be heavier if it was for borough council or the school board or something like that, but it’s not," Randall said. "People are probably just coming in, voting their ticket and going."
Janet Lintz, judge of elections for East Stroudsburg’s second and fourth ward, said that the second ward traditionally draws more traffic from students, but with the primary pushed into the summer and few students on campus, attendance was low.
Joshua Pellew, of Stroud Township, says the voting experience was different than what he was used to due to the impact of COVID-19.
"I’m used to electronic voting since I’m from New York, so seeing the (paper ballots) was a change as well." Pellew said.
A 2018 directive from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called on all state and local election officials to make the switch to verifiable ballot systems that produced a paper record by the General Election this November. Monroe County made the switch in 2019.
Pellew, who is Black, said he felt "lucky" to be able to vote during uncertain times. Stroudsburg had just experienced one of it’s largest political demonstrations in recorded history the night before— a march calling for justice in the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
"I just feel lucky to be able to vote, because of the coronavirus and everything that is going on— politically," Pellew said.
Volunteers for East Stroudsburg’s fourth ward — which had to be moved to the Dansbury Commons location last-minute due to volunteer call-outs — reported just over 40 ballots submitted just after noon. First-time volunteer William O’Brien said that traffic was "mild to moderate," though he valued the experience.
"It’s very gratifying to be here and see this part of the process of voting, to see the people that come to work starting before 6 a.m. in the morning and getting organized," O’Brien said.
East Stroudsburg High School South student and volunteer Christian Bynoe, 17, said that "it’s not overwhelming, and it’s not too slow," and encouraged others to volunteer for future elections. As Bynoe puts it, the effort was educational, and it provided some break from boredom.
"Well, I had nothing to do, and it was a great learning experience and opportunity," Bynoe said.