Primary proves expensive

March 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Voter turnout was so low for Hagerstown's primary election on Tuesday that the cost of the balloting worked out to $16.78 per voter.

Despite the 10 percent turnout, the election cost city taxpayers $25,810.

Had all 14,726 registered voters cast ballots, the cost per voter would have worked out to slightly more than $1.75.

Of those eligible to vote in the primary, only 1,538 cast ballots, including those who voted by absentee ballot, said Dorothy Kaetzel, election director for the Washington County Supervisors of Elections.

Voter turnout was so low that the City Hall voting precinct - in which 520 people were registered to vote in the primary - averaged two voters an hour, according to election officials.


"More people need to get out and vote," said City Clerk Gann Breichner. "It is kind of sad that there aren't more people interested in what happens locally."

The cost of this year's primary increased by $10,325 from that of the city's 1993 primary election, when Democratic and Republican primaries were held for the City Council race and a Democratic primary was held for mayor.

On Tuesday, Democratic and GOP primaries were required only for the mayor's race. There weren't enough candidates running for City Council seats for primaries to be required.

One reason the cost of this year's primary was higher than the last was the cost of the high-tech voting machines that scan ballots quickly and accurately, Kaetzel said.

Washington County, which leases the voting machines, charged the City of Hagerstown $12,570 to use the machines in the primary, Breichner said.

The cost will remain the same for the May 20 general election as well as for the city's primary and general elections in 2001, she said.

According to officials, other costs associated with the primary election include:

  • $7,080 to pay 34 chief judges and 46 regular judges at the polls.
  • $2,181 to print 16,780 ballots, one for every registered voter and extra ballots in case some voters mark ballots incorrectly.
  • $1,480 to pay the election board staff.
  • $804 to pay the election board.
  • $700 to pay the state's election board, which issues the voter cards.
  • $565 for advertising.
  • $200 in supplies.
  • $150 to rent the room where the voting machines are stored.
  • $80 for rent or contributions for the use of polling places.

Official results of Tuesday's primary, including absentee ballots, are:

  • Democratic nominee Steven T. Sager, 598 votes.
  • Democrat Don Allensworth, 311.
  • Republican nominee Robert E. Bruchey II, 371.
  • Republican Leon C. Fearnow, 133.
  • Republican Joseph H. Walker, 71.
  • Republican Dennis L. Duffey, 42.
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