My, what a difference dozens of races, five months and two presidential candidates can make.
This morning at First Southern Baptist Church in northwest Lawrence, three poll judges were busy remembering the rush of voters from this past November while dealing with muted turnout this time around.
As expected, Obama vs. McCain drew a bigger crowd than the fields of candidates for Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board.
By 10 a.m., the polling place had collected 79 completed ballots out of 1,826 registered voters, good for early turnout of 4.3 percent.
“Fifteen percent would be pretty good for today,” said Bill Grubbs, a poll judge who recalls lines of November voters snaking out of the church’s multipurpose room, down the hall and past offices and classrooms as they waited to get ballots.
Today, the seven ballot stands stood mostly empty. A line hadn’t had a chance to form all day, as Mary Hills collected signatures in the poll book, Grubbs handed out ballots and Supervising Judge Gene Bean had voters feed their ballots into the electronic collection machine.
Still, the poll workers and others gathered at the precinct had hopes for more people showing up by 7 p.m.
“I’m wishing they would, but I think most people won’t take the time,” said Marvin Groh, an 82-year-old retired teacher who took the time to vote. “I vote every election.”
Groh admits that while the stakes are high in today’s election — commissioners and board members make decisions that hit especially close to home for city and district residents — the issues aren’t quite as catchy as during a presidential race.
Groh himself had read up on the commission candidates, but relied on his wife, Lois, for advice on the board races. Lois Groh retired in 2000 from Lawrence High School after 42 years of teaching.
Marvin Groh wasn’t about to take any chances with his votes.
“It’s that important,” he said.