Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Two of three voters stayed home

City and Hamilton County issues decided by minority

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Despite near perfect weather Tuesday, only about one of every three Hamilton County voters went to the polls.

In an election where the Cincinnati City Council race dominated the ballot, along with a host of suburban issues, the turnout was substantially less than the 42 percent that showed up at the polls two years ago for the city's first direct election of a mayor.

"It's hard to tell, but I don't think this election is going to be anything special in terms of turnout," said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Countywide turnout was 34 percent. Burke predicted a 36 percent turnout, the same number predicted statewide by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Elections officials said turnout was slightly higher in the city of Cincinnati where 26 city council candidates were vying for nine seats.

Officials said they were pleased that there were no reports of problems with equipment or ballot cards at the county's polling places.

The only hitch came early Tuesday when a poll worker assigned to a Madisonville precinct had a minor auto accident while on her way to work with a box full of ballots.

Hamilton County Elections Director Julie Stautberg said that a Cincinnati Police officer took the woman and the box from the scene of the accident and drove them to the polling place.

"Cincinnati's finest saved the day," Stautberg said.

At the Board of Elections late Tuesday, a large crowd of candidates, campaign workers and poll watchers gathered in the auditorium for a new feature of the agency - a large picture window, which allowed them to watch as the ballot boxes came in to be sorted and run through the counting machines.

In the past, that was something of a mysterious process that took place deep in the basement of the Board of Elections, out of sight of the public.


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