Tuesday's city and school board elections brought 35.4 percent of the voters to the polls.
Tears of joy rolled down Mayor Jo Andersen's cheeks.
"We got our referendum on Simply Equal," said Andersen, a supporter of the proposed addition to the city's human rights ordinance that would extend protection to homosexuals.
Those were her first words Tuesday night after seeing results go up on a chalkboard at the Douglas County Courthouse that showed Allen Levine, another Simply Equal supporter, had won a spot on the Lawrence City Commission.
Emotional responses to Levine's come-from-behind victory highlighted Tuesday night's election watch at the courthouse. Levine overcame a sixth-place finish in February's primary to win one of the three open seats on the commission.
About 50 people gathered in the second-floor rotunda to watch unofficial election results being posted. Several, including advocates of Simply Equal, cheered and hugged each other when it became clear Levine won.
But disappointment that more than 64 percent of the voters didn't go to the polls was evident among supporters of other candidates.
Only 14,125 voters, or 35.4 percent of Douglas County's 39,870 registered voters, participated in Tuesday's city and school board elections.
That meant candidates needed to get only a small percentage of votes to win a seat, said Sue Hack, a supporter of Bonnie Augustine, who came in second behind John Nalbandian to win a spot on the city commission.
"It's amazing to me in a town this size that 4,000 people decide who runs the city, and 60,000 sit back and gripe about it," said Hack, a ninth-grade teacher at South Junior High School.
Meanwhile, Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes said her election forecast was accurate -- she had predicted a turnout of between 35 percent and 38 percent.
Workers at the polls reported no major problems on election day, Jaimes said.
After polls closed at 7 p.m., the ballots were delivered fairly quickly to the courthouse. Vote totals were tallied by the county's AIS-315 optical scanners by about 8:40 p.m.
The results will be canvassed at 9 a.m. Friday by the Douglas County Commission at the courthouse.
Several observers at the courthouse offered their own evaluations of the election.
"I thought the election turned into an invisible election. There wasn't a lot of fire," said City Commissioner Bob Moody.
Barry Shalinsky, a longtime East Lawrence resident and local election observer, said he was surprised that at least one of the two conservative candidates, Jo Barnes and Carl E. Burkhead, didn't catch the conservative mood of the voters.
"I felt like the same conservative forces that had taken over the Congress and the state Legislature were poised to do the same thing to the city commission and to also elect a member to the school board," Shalinsky said.
"I think that what must have happened is that they mustered about all the support that they had in the primary and that motivated the moderates to turn out to vote in the general election."