Voter turnout low in primary

In the 6th District congressional race, Don DeArmon edged out Kevin Shaffer for the chance to face Roscoe Bartlett, Jr. in Novem

In the 6th District congressional race, Don DeArmon edged out Kevin Shaffer for the chance to face Roscoe Bartlett, Jr. in Novem

September 11, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Poll workers at Washington County Free Library started closing up shop a half hour before the polls closed Tuesday. All day long they saw just 101 people, less than one in eight of the precinct's registered voters.

"You can't go out and drag people off the street," said Virginia Altman, the precinct's chief election judge.

Countywide, turnout in Tuesday's primary election was 23 percent.

Turnout was down from the 1998 primary, when 30.5 percent of the registered voters went to the polls.

There were few contested races to draw people to the polls.

Among candidates for the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, the only contested primary race was in District 3B, which covers southern Frederick and Washington counties.

Paul Gilligan of Burkittsville was leading fellow Democrat Lisa Baugher of Tuscarora for the chance to go up against Republican Richard Weldon of Brunswick in the Nov. 5 election. The race was too close to call at press time.


In the 6th District congressional race, Don DeArmon of Frederick was leading Kevin Shaffer of LaVale for the Democratic nomination. With 82 percent of the votes counted, DeArmon had 12,795 votes, or 51 percent, to Shaffer's 12,153, or 49 percent.

The winner will go up against incumbent Republican Roscoe Bartlett in November.

Ballot counting went smoothly in Washington County, which posted complete but unofficial results two hours after the polls closed.

However, it was a different story in Frederick County, where the vote-counting machine broke down about halfway through the count. A technician was delivering Washington County's machine to Frederick, Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said.

At the Washington County Election Board office on West Washington Street, a handful of candidates or their representatives stationed themselves in the hallway to hear election board member Jim Mobley read the results as they came in.

Washington County election results won't be official until Sept. 18, after absentee, provisional and overseas ballots are counted, Kaetzel said.

Absentee ballots, which will be counted Thursday morning, are unlikely to change the election results, she said. Voters requested 297 Democratic and 346 Republican absentee ballots.

Provisional ballots, which are being used for the first time in Maryland, can be cast by voters who have moved from one county to another in Maryland but never changed their registration.

Maryland State Election Board officials sent a computer technician to the Hagerstown office in case something went wrong with the voter registration system. Nothing did.

One ballot-counting machine, at Greenbrier Elementary, went on the blink. But voters were able to continue casting ballots while technicians replaced it with one of six spare machines, Kaetzel said.

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