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For the most part, the candidates for state House seats in Lebanon County this year plan to work their districts pretty much as usual – visiting the polls and encouraging voters while doing their best to follow social-distancing requirements made necessary by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Incumbent state Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102) said he will begin the day with his “usual approach” by voting early in his precinct, at Annville Town Hall, “and then roving from poll to poll throughout the day.”
“The only difference this year is that I will consciously be maintaining six feet of distance from others I encounter at the polls, rather than shaking hands,” he said. “After the polls close, I will be joining fellow Republicans monitoring returns at GOP HQ in Lebanon.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding election results by day’s end on Tuesday, Diamond feels confident he’ll know how voting turned out.
“Thanks to the great efforts by the county Board of Elections to adapt to mail-in voting, we expect the outcome of single-county local races such as mine to be able to be called by midnight,” he said.
Incumbent state Rep. Frank Ryan (R-101) also plans to be on the move.
“We personally view the election is continuous until 8 p.m. on election night so we keep pretty flexible and busy,” Ryan said in an email to LebTown. “We have a general idea of where will be but it’s definitely not stationary. That’s been an approach we’ve done since I first ran for office.”
He, like Diamond, intends to end the day among his peers.
“After the election is over we plan on going to the Republican headquarters awaiting the results,” Ryan said.
Matthew Duvall, Diamond’s Democratic challenger, said his No. 1 priority — “due to the pandemic, and particularly the rising rates of infection in Lebanon County, … is the health and safety of voters.”
Data predicts more than 20,000 in-person voters in the 102nd District, he said, plus additional people dropping off mail-in ballots.
“So, I’ll be stopping at a few polling locations – outside only and with a face covering,” Duvall said. “I want the poll workers, volunteers, and voters to be safe. The fewer people congregating in enclosed spaces, the better. I’ll post live videos from these locations on social media to encourage voters to make sure their voices are heard.
Duvall said the Lebanon County Democratic Committee usually hosts a watch party, “but again – pandemic. Instead, I’ll spend the evening at home with my family, interacting with the public via live video on social media as the results come in.”
While it’s uncertain what polls will be completely tallied by the close of Tuesday, Duvall said it’s “important to be patient as every vote gets counted. … In any event, I’m happy to see high levels of engagement in voting this year. Our government works better when more people participate. I hope everyone who’s registered to vote casts a ballot.”
Calvin “Doc” Clements, a Democrat who is vying for Ryan’s seat, said also plans to make the rounds, but he doesn’t want to bother the voters.
“I will visit several of the polls,” he said in an email, “mainly to thank the workers.”
Mostly, however, he will keep a low profile.
“I don’t enjoy being accosted at the polls by candidates,” Clements explained, “and I don’t intend on doing the same.”
Incumbent state Rep. Susan C. Helms (R-104) said she will be at her local polling place – the First Assembly of God Church in the 9th Ward of Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County — from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“I have most of my polls covered with campaign workers who have been requested to wear a mask at all times while handing out materials,” Helms said. They have also been asked to maintain social distancing “as much as possible” and offer poll cards but not to put them directly in a voter’s hand without permission.
“I gave every poll worker a bag of goodies including a mask, hand sanitizer and gloves,” she said.
No “traditional watch party” is scheduled by the Dauphin County GOP, she added, although an online version will be available by Zoom, via DauphinGOP.org, beginning at 9 p.m. Helms said she believes the results of her race will be available by the end of the night.
Her Democratic challenger Patty Smith did not respond to a request for comment.
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