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Voter turnout in county falls short of expectations

November 08, 2000

Voter turnout in county falls short of expectations



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


Despite a tightly contested presidential race, voter turnout in Washington County fell below a pre-election projection.

Of the 69,422 registered voters in the county, 45,138, or 65 percent, cast ballots Tuesday, according to unofficial results from the Washington County Board of Elections.

When absentee ballots are included in the total, the turnout is more than 68 percent, said Jim Mobley, a member of the Board of Elections.

Last week, Board of Elections Director Dorothy Kaetzel predicted a turnout of 77 percent. She was relying in part on the high number of absentee ballots that had been requested.

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Mobley wasn't sure Tuesday night why turnout was lower than expected.

"It's just only guesswork, based on the information we knew at the time," he said.

In addition to the presidential race, the ballot included races races for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. There were no local contests other than the Washington County Board of Education race.

The Board of Elections sent out 2,641 absentee ballots. By Tuesday, 2,424 had been returned, Mobley said. Ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted.

The board is expected to tabulate absentee ballot votes Thursday morning.

Washington County's turnout was lower Tuesday than it was for the last presidential election in 1996. Kaetzel said 70 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election.

The turnout in 1996 was lighter than in other recent presidential election years because of a change in voter eligibility.

Before then, people who had not voted in five years were purged from the voter rolls. A new law stopped that practice.

Turnout was about 77 percent in 1984 and 1988, according to a 1996 Morning Herald chart.

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