Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2001

LOW VOTER TURNOUT BEWILDERS CLERK

April 4, 2001

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Apathy.

How apathetic were voters?

"We've walked and we've talked and we've done everything we can think of to stay awake," said Verdeania Zeller, supervising judge in Precinct 16, Ward 2 at Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.

By 5 p.m. only 88 people had voted at the church, Zeller said. That's about as low as in many primary elections when voter turnout is usually lower, she said.

Unofficially, 21 percent of the voters throughout Douglas County participated in the election, County Clerk Patty Jaimes said.

For Douglas Countians alone, the unofficial total of ballots cast was 11,733, Jaimes said. If you include additional Leavenworth County voters who cast ballots at Grant School northeast of Lawrence and in north Eudora, the count grows to 11,807, she said.

There are about 56,200 registered voters in Douglas County.

"We expected to have more than this," Jaimes said.

Except for early-morning thunderstorms that rolled through the area, there wasn't anything to prevent a higher turnout, Jaimes said. Two years ago during spring municipal elections, the official voter turnout was 23.4 percent, she said.

"We've had as many as 30 percent turnout in the past," Jaimes said.

Voting interest wasn't high most of the day at the American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth St., where voters in Precinct 7, Ward 2 cast their ballots.

"We had a very slow start," said Supervising Judge Carol Henderson. "We're hoping to double the primary turnout, but it's going to take a miracle."

A similar lack of voters was found at polling locations at Woodlawn School, 508 Elm St., and Central Junior High School, 1400 Mass., poll workers said.

Like Jaimes, election workers said they were surprised at the low turnout.

"There's really no excuse. People just won't get out," Beverly Cates, supervising judge at Woodlawn, said.

Michael Clover, 25, was one who did get out and vote. The Lawrence man said he was especially interested in the commission race because of the recent changes in ordinances governing rental properties.

"I own rental properties, so that hits pretty close to home," he said.

Despite apartment complexes within walking distance of the American Legion, few Kansas University students vote, Henderson said.

Kristofer Thompson Jr., a KU junior from Ellsworth, said he votes in national elections while attending school in Lawrence.

"I worked for the federal government and I'm in (Army) ROTC, so it's kind of like voting for the boss," he said.

As for local elections, Thompson said he sits them out.

"I don't really feel like I'm a part of the community to vote in them," he said.

John Sullivan, Lawrence, found his efforts to vote early Tuesday frustrated because the polling location at Free Methodist Church did not open at 7 a.m. when it was supposed to. He said he waited 10 minutes before having to leave to go to work.

Sullivan later called the Douglas County Clerk's Office to complain and said he was unhappy with workers' nonchalant attitude.

"You would think they would have been a little more concerned," he said.

Sullivan managed to make it back to vote after he got off work, he said.

A church janitor failed to unlock the doors on time, causing a few minutes' delay, Jaimes said. Zeller said the voting got started shortly after 7 a.m. when someone associated with the church arrived to open the doors.

Jaimes said she wasn't aware of any other polling place problems. %%

-- Staff writer Mike Belt can be reached at 832-7165.

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