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Washington County voter turnout percentage drops from '04

November 06, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A rush of new voter registrations this year in Washington County did not appear to translate into a higher turnout percentage Tuesday, according to unofficial election results from the Washington County Elections Board.

Although voter registrations in Washington County are up more than 10 percent from 2004, when the last presidential election was held, a lower percentage of registered voters cast ballots this year than in 2004, election results show.

"I'm really surprised. We were expecting 80 percent turnout," Washington County Elections Director Dorothy Kaetzel said Wednesday.

While more ballots were cast this year than in 2004, the increase has not paralleled the rise in registered voters.

Turnout as a percentage of registered voters was down at almost every polling station in Washington County, election results show.

About 67 percent of Washington County's 85,183 registered voters cast electronic ballots Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

In 2004, just more than 70 percent of 77,309 registered voters cast electronic ballots at the polls, according to turnout data kept by the county elections board.

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Those numbers do not include absentee or provisional ballots.

Kaetzel said Wednesday that the elections board will begin counting the estimated 4,400 absentee ballots and perhaps as many as 1,000 provisional ballots today.

No canvasses will be official for a few weeks, Kaetzel said.

It was unclear Wednesday why turnout percentage seemed to have declined. Kaetzel said turnout data by party was not yet available Wednesday.

Preliminary data did show, however, that the Republicans' margin of victory was narrower this year than in 2004.

In 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry here by a 29 percent margin, with 36,917 votes to Kerry's 20,387.

On Tuesday, McCain's margin of victory over Obama in Washington County was 14 percent, according to unofficial results that do not include absentee or provisional votes.

McCain drew 31,715 votes to Obama's 23,953, those results show.

Similarly, Roscoe G. Bartlett defeated Democratic challenger Kenneth T. Bosley in Washington County in 2004 by almost 36 percent, with 36,320 votes to Bosley's 16,862.

This year, Bartlett's margin of victory over Democrat Jennifer P. Dougherty was just more than 14 percent, unofficial results show.

Bartlett earned 29,896 votes to Dougherty's 22,207, results show.

While many voters waited in long lines to cast ballots Tuesday, Kaetzel said no major problems were reported with voting machines or voter registration.

"It went really, really good," said Kaetzel, who noted that polling places seemed to be much busier in the morning than the evening.

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