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Archive for Wednesday, November 9, 1994

VOTER TURNOUT LOWER THAN EXPECTED

November 9, 1994

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Long lines at Holcom Park Recreation Center and a few ballot glitches made it a late night for Douglas County election workers.

Political experts may be scratching their heads today, trying to figure it out -- why only 58.8 percent of Douglas County's voters made it to the polls Tuesday.

The ingredients for a higher turnout were there: races for governor and statewide offices, local races for the Kansas Legislature and county commission, and controversial issues for a second high school and a sales tax.

Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes seemed puzzled as she looked at a computer printout late Tuesday night showing the final tally -- 28,782 of the 49,046 registered voters had cast ballots. That was about 5 percent less than the 63 percent Jaimes had predicted.

"Four years ago, the voter turnout was 64 percent and eight years ago it was 62 percent," Jaimes said, referring to the last two gubernatorial elections.

Despite the relatively low turnout, interest in the election seemed to be high throughout the city as lines were reported during the day at several local polling places.

Interest also seemed high Tuesday night at the Douglas County Courthouse. The second-floor rotunda area was filled with candidates and well-wishers who watched results tallied on chalkboards through the evening.

The first ballots came through the door by about 7:30 p.m. and most of the results were tabulated by about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday.

But the ballots from the last precinct, Holcom Park Recreation Center, weren't brought in until 10:30 p.m.

Lois Granowski, an election clerk at Holcom, said that when the polls closed at 7 p.m., many people were still waiting in a long line stretching around the gymnasium at the center.

Granowski said those in line were allowed to vote, with the last voter casting a ballot around 8:30 p.m. She said some voters dissatisfied with the long wait walked out earlier in the day, but some came back.

Susan Smith, who chairs the county's Republican Party, said she was contacted by an irate voter who said he was upset that the Holcom polling place took so long to get voters through the process.

"I talked to a gentleman who said it took him 43 minutes to vote," Smith said. "One of the poll workers had a little trouble understanding and reading names off the list. People were leaving."

There were a few other glitches that had to be ironed out during Tuesday night's ballot counting process.

For example, Jaimes said poll workers had to sort through about 150 ballots from the Deerfield School polling place to see if anyone had marked on ballots that were intended for other polling places. Jaimes said nine ballots not intended for Deerfield were found.

Also, both Democrat Judy Hancock and Republican Jan Meyers were listed as Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District race on ballots going to the Brandon Woods polling place.

That error was discovered before the polls opened and copies of corrected ballots were made to be distributed to voters. But all of those ballots had to be counted by hand.

Election workers were still hand-counting those ballots at 1:30 a.m., Jaimes said.

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