Democrats swept to unexpected victories across the country last week, defying historical trends for midterm elections, including in Pennsylvania. Josh Shapiro won the governorship in a blowout and John Fetterman, recovering from a stroke and facing a flood of negative advertising against him, eked out a win for the U.S. Senate.
Allegheny County was no exception, with state Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Pittsburgh, and state Rep.-elect Arvind Venkat, D-McCandless, comfortably winning what were thought to be swing districts; and U.S. Rep.-elect Chris Deluzio winning as a Democrat in a swing district in which Republicans invested heavily.
Turnout was up statewide compared to the 2018 midterms, and in Allegheny County it rose from 58% to 60%. It didn’t rise uniformly across the county, though, with some lower-turnout areas seeing a decline from 2018. Of the county’s 130 municipalities, 15 saw turnout lower than in 2018.
Turnout may have been escalated by more animated state legislative races; a more competitive, redrawn map spurred Democrats to push for a House majority and drive up participation in districts like Venkat’s in the North Hills.
Turnout sagged in parts of the Mon Valley and eastern suburbs, with Penn Hills, Rankin and Wilkinsburg each seeing a slight decline from 2018. Clairton, which was among the locales with the lowest 2018 turnout, edged up by 0.6 percentage points this year.
An analysis of the 2018 election’s turnout showed that the region’s most marginalized communities made the least noise at the ballot box — municipalities with lower income and higher minority populations tended to vote less. That trend didn’t change significantly in 2022, and in some cases it got worse.
The largest increases from 2018 were seen in Trafford (up 12 percentage points), South Versailles (up 11 points), West Elizabeth (up 10 points) and Forward Township (up 10 points). In Pittsburgh, turnout edged up half a point to 51.2%.
Candidate hometowns were a mixed bag. Thornburg, home of Chris Deluzio, led the county in turnout at 79%. (Deluzio has long lived in Pittsburgh but talked during the campaign of his Thornburg upbringing.) But Braddock, famously the home of Sen.-elect Fetterman, was near the low end at 40%, down three points from 2018. U.S. Rep.-elect Summer Lee, who launched her campaign in Braddock last year, grew up in neighboring North Braddock (up two points to 47%).
Plum is where Republican congressional candidate Mike Doyle serves on the borough council, and though he lost to Lee in the 12th district, turnout surged to 66% in Plum.
Pittsburgh’s turnout map shows a decline from 2018 throughout predominantly Black neighborhoods in the northeast of the city and the North Side. Turnout rose in parts of the liberal 14th Ward, South Hills and West End.
Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @chwolfson.
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