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Two out of three voters elect to stay home

September 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

More than two out of three of Washington County's registered voters elected not to vote in Tuesday's primary election despite a large field of candidates and a $54 million county water and sewer debt.

Only 30.5 percent, or 19,652, of the county's 64,389 registered voters went to the polls, said Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel.

More people voted in this year's primary than in the 1994 gubernatorial primary although the percentage of voters was higher that year at 36 percent, Kaetzel said.

The voter turnout percentage was lower this year because there were 13,171 more registered voters than in 1994, Kaetzel said.

Kaetzel said she believes many of the people who register to vote through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration didn't vote on Tuesday. That program began in 1995.

"There ain't no point in voting cause ain't none of them any good anyway," said Kenneth Angle, 54, who lives at Potomac Towers - a polling place.

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On the other hand, Dick Vidoni said he voted Tuesday because there were so many candidates. "Usually you don't have this kind of selection."

"I very seldom vote in the primaries," said Vidoni, 60, who voted at the Washington County Free Library just before the 8 p.m. deadline.

Despite having an edge of 414 registered voters over the Democrats, fewer Republicans cast ballots on Tuesday.

Figures showed that 9,838 Democrats cast ballots and 9,487 Republicans voted.

Kaetzel said 327 people who are registered Independent, a member of a political party other than the Democratic and Republican parties or who declined to align with a party voted on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday night, 645 absentee ballots were outstanding, including 325 from Democrats and 310 from Republicans, according to the election board.

That could make a difference in the race for the Republican Party's last two open nominations for Washington County Commissioner seats, according to figures from the election board.

The election board can accept absentee ballots until 4 p.m. on Wednesday as long as they are postmarked no later than Sept. 15, Kaetzel said.

The absentee ballots will be counted at 10 a.m. on Thursday in the master's hearing room on the second floor of the Washington County Courthouse annex, Kaetzel said.

Kaetzel said she didn't think the hot weather played a factor in the low voter turnout.

Polling booths at Hancock Middle-Senior High School were moved from the gymnasium to the cafeteria on Monday in anticipation of Tuesday's heat, officials said.

"It's very, very hot here," Chief Judge Janice McCarty said at mid-afternoon. "It's terrible here. We don't have air conditioning."

Tuesday's high of 94 degrees in Hagerstown set a record for that date. The previous high for that date was 93 degrees set in 1927, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's data.

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