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Polls reflect voter apathy

May 16, 2001

Polls reflect voter apathy



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Thelma Butts votes

Photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT

Staff photographer

Thelma Butts chats with pollworkers Tuesday while voting at Associated Builders and Contractors on Howard Street. About 16.7 percent of Hagerstown's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday.

About one in six eligible voters cast ballots in Hagerstown's general election Tuesday, continuing a downward trend over the last two decades.

There were 3,049 ballots cast in the election. The city has 18,264 registered voters, which means turnout was 16.7 percent, according to Washington County Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel.

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The number of votes cast does not include the 111 absentee ballots that the election board received by Tuesday.

Even a choice of 10 candidates for five City Council seats didn't prompt voters to head for the polls, Kaetzel said.

Results from the city's 13 precincts are complete, but not yet official.

Kaetzel, who predicted a turnout of 18 percent, said voter participation has been "going down since the 1980s."

Election board data shows that 47 percent of voters took part in the city's 1981 general election, not including those who used absentee ballots.

That figure dropped to 39 percent in 1985, to 35 percent in 1989, and to 30 percent in 1993. Turnout was 22 percent in 1997.

During this year's primary in March, just over 11 percent of registered voters went to the polls. That was slightly higher than for the 1997 primary, but lower than for primaries in 1981, 1985, 1989 and 1993.

Kaetzel said the Hagerstown numbers mesh with a nationwide trend of voter apathy.

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