Today’s news quiz: Which county cast more votes in November – Allegheny or Philadelphia?
Despite its built-in advantages of 350,000 more residents and 100,000 more registered voters, it’s not Philly.
How did Allegheny County do it? County Executive Rich Fitzgerald thinks he knows and credits bolstering the opportunity for residents to vote by mail.
Fitzgerald said the county has provided vote-by-mail instruction videos, sent out mail-in ballot applications with free return postage and expanded use of the County Office Building for de facto early voting using vote-by-mail.
“I’m really proud of these efforts and how successful they’ve been in increasing turnout,” Fitzgerald told the Tribune-Review. “While Philadelphia has a larger number of voters than us, we outvoted the county in the last election by 70,000 votes. It’s clearly been impactful.”
The numbers prove his point.
During the 2017 general election, voter turnout in Allegheny County came in approximately 23.6 percent. Four years later in a similar municipal election, voter turnout was 33.3%.
The trend not only is showing in Allegheny County, as neighboring Westmoreland County showed a nine-point jump from 27 to 36 percent in the municipals and a nearly 9% leap between the 2018 and 2022 midterms.
Yes, the percentage of people utilizing mail ballots is down from 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Democrats still favor the process more than GOP voters, as Dems still use the mail balloting process three times more than Republicans.
Sam Hens-Greco, chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, said mail-in voting has made it easier for Democrats to boost their overall turnout and reach new voters who don’t normally vote every year.
“When you are given more options, the more engagement you will have,” he said. “There is absolutely more room to grow.”
Allegheny County Republican Chairman Sam DeMarco said “The Republicans need to use this. Unfortunately, former President Trump is railing against the use of mail-in voting, and it has slowed the acceptance of it for Republicans.
“If I were king, there wouldn’t be mail-in ballots. But I am not,” he said. “These are the rules that we have, and I may not like them, but I like losing even less. Republicans need to adapt if they want to win.”
DeMarco praised Fitzgerald for having the Allegheny County Elections Division count mail-in ballots so quickly and said he hopes that will encourage more local Republicans to trust mail-in voting.