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Archive for Wednesday, April 8, 1992

COURTHOUSE QUIETED BY LOW VOTER TURNOUT

April 8, 1992

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Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes let out a groan Tuesday night when she saw the unofficial county voter turnout number of 9,210.

"I'm a little disappointed," she said.

That meant just 26.1 percent of the county's 35,226 registered voters bothered to participate in the primary. Jaimes had predicted a turnout of 35 percent, or more than 12,300 voters, Monday.

In 1980 when the state held its only other presidential primary, 44 percent of the county's registered voters participated. Tuesday's turnout also was well below the 1991 Lawrence City Commission and school board primary elections figure of 30 percent.

At an estimated cost of $48,000 to the county, the primary cost $5.21 per voter.

THE COUNTY'S final cost, Jaimes said, would be less than the estimate because of cost-cutting efforts by her staff. Savings were achieved through reduced ballot printing costs, limited legal publications and the recycling of election supplies where possible.

Jaimes said it would take a couple of weeks before she knew the exact cost of the primary.

What also remains unknown is whether the state will pay for the primary or will make counties pick up the tab. Legislation providing $1.5 million from the state to the counties for the election awaits Gov. Joan Finney's signature.

The county did not budget for the primary last year, on the assumption the state would pay or it would be canceled. The county has money to pay for the primary, but at the expense of the Aug. 4 primary for state and local offices or the Nov. 3 general election.

THE LOW turnout meant smooth sailing for the election workers processing ballots at the county courthouse. A steady stream of poll workers brought in the ballots from each of the county's 51 precincts. The last ballot box was turned in at 8:13 p.m. and was counted shortly after.

"I thought tonight went fantastic," Jaimes said.

The courthouse also experienced a low turnout of people to watch posting of the vote count. The second floor of the courthouse, usually a bevy of candidates, party activists and interested onlookers on election night, was home to a small set of stragglers during the evening. Most of the attending few were completing a class assignment, not because they wanted to be there.

Some of the most enthusiastic observers of the vote counting were two election workers from West Virginia, who watched the ballot processing machines in hopes of buying one, and a sales representative from the company that makes the equipment, who looked on in hopes of selling one.

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