City voter turnout lowest ever

May 21, 1997


Staff Writer

The smallest percentage of voters in Hagerstown history trudged to the polls for Tuesday's general election, continuing a steady slide since 1981, when close to half of the electorate voted.

According to unofficial turnout figures, 21.67 percent of city voters cast ballots.

The total was a little more than double March's primary, but the lowest ever for a city general election.

Since 1981, figures for the city's general election have slipped to 39 percent, 35 percent and 30 percent in successive elections.

"To think that 20 percent of the registered voters elected the mayor and council of Hagerstown," marveled Dorothy Kaetzel, Washington County election director.


"We expected low turnout," she added. "This is even lower than we predicted."

Poll judges throughout the city reported a steady, but small trickle of voters.

Charles K. Miller, a judge at the Potomac Towers precinct, said he was surprised by the low turnout. He said he thought the turnout would be double the 15 percent who showed up there for the primary.

Instead, 140 out of 688 - about 20 percent - voted, Miller said. Noting the sunshine most of the day, he said weather was no explanation.

"They have no excuse," he said. "It's better than the primary, but still not what we expected. I thought there was more interest in town."

At Salem Elementary School, a little more than 28 percent voted - a little less than the primary.

"I would have expected more voters than in the primary," said Elaine Rose, chief polling judge for the precinct.

The traffic at the North Hagerstown High School polling station was at least consistent, even if the overall 25 percent turnout was low, said chief judge Jason Malott.

"Except for the last hour, it's been pretty steady all day long," he said just before polls closed. "There weren't too many periods when no one came in."

Those who did show up tended to have an anti-incumbent fervor, he said.

"We did hear quite a few people say they wanted to throw the rascals out," he said. "Quite a few people said: `Clean house.'"

Staff Writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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