Primary turnout called 'dismal'

March 12, 1997


Staff Writer

Ten percent of Hagerstown's eligible voters went to the polls Tuesday to vote for mayoral candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries, election officials said.

Unofficial figures showed that 1,474 of the 14,726 eligible voters cast ballots in the primary, said Dorothy Kaetzel, election director for the Washington County Supervisors of Elections.

The Democratic mayoral primary drew 878 voters, and the Republican mayoral contest attracted 596, she said.

Kaetzel said it was the lowest turnout for a primary election since the city began keeping accurate records in 1989. Four years ago, turnout was 12.9 percent.


"It's very dismal," she said.

Some said they did not vote because they were unfamiliar with the candidates or the major issues. Some of those who voted said they were motivated more by civic duty than by the candidates.

"If you believe in being an American, you vote," said Wayne Alter, 72, who said he has not missed an election since he has been old enough to vote. "The American people need to get out and vote. It's bad enough when you do vote. It's even worse when you don't."

Poll judges and voters said the election generated little enthusiasm.

"I just don't hear this election being talked up a lot," said Charles Miller, a judge at the Potomac Towers polling place. "I go to my clubs and I don't even hear it talked about. It seems like there's no interest."

People who did not vote gave reasons ranging from lack of interest to lack of knowledge.

Mary Smith said she was disappointed the last time she voted.

"It didn't do very much for me, the last voting season," she said.

The candidates said they hope for better turnout in the May 20 general election.

"The media wasn't a big help this time," said Robert E. Bruchey II, who won the Republican primary for mayor.

Incumbent Steven T. Sager, who won the Democratic mayoral primary, said Bruchey was the only candidate who energetically campaigned.

"The primary was pretty much a non-event in terms of campaigning - myself included," he said.

Staff Writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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