Archive for Thursday, November 4, 2004

Turnout heavy, but not a record

November 4, 2004

It was an election day understatement.

"Busy, busy, busy," Barbara Hall, Lansing poll worker, said of Tuesday's voting.

Hall has worked as a volunteer for 15 years and said more people turned out this year than any she'd seen. In terms of volume, her description of the polls is appropriate - in number, more Lansing voters cast a vote this year than in any previous year.

However, the percentage of registered Lansing voters who turned out on Tuesday, 53 percent, was the lowest of the last seven Presidential elections, according to the county clerk's final but unofficial numbers. The Leavenworth County Commission will canvass the vote Monday to make it official.

Historically, Lansing has higher voter turnout than the national average, according to numbers provided by the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office.

Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer said the unofficial percentage of Leavenworth County registered voters who turned out was about 66 percent, not counting provisional ballots, which have yet to be counted.

"I was surprised," Scheer said. "I expected it to be more like 75 percent."

But in total, those who voted in Lansing numbered hundreds more than ever before, keeping poll workers busy throughout the day.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Though some voters lined up as early as 6:30 a.m., numbers at some stations dropped off at the end of the day.

Scheer said she thought many people got out earlier than usual this year, trying to avoid the typical post-work evening rush.

At mid-morning, workers in the first ward had nearly 200 voters, as many as they've had the whole day in years past, volunteer Rose Black said. Her granddaughter, Becky Hiatt, was volunteering and voting for the first time but had not yet had an opportunity to cast her vote because she had been so busy.

"They told me that this would be a good place to work because there are usually only a couple of hundred," said poll worker Gen Krebs at about 10:30 a.m. "But I came here and already there have been more than 100."

"We haven't been out of our chairs!" Jean Ryan, a volunteer in the third ward said. Fellow volunteer Suzanne Littell said voters seemed excited to be out this year, and the pace wasn't slowing down.

"It's been nonstop steady since 6:30 a.m.," Littell said. "No chance for a lunch break - no chance for a snack break."

First-time volunteer Elizabeth Hill pointed to a paper napkin of microwave popcorn she was trying to eat between voters and said, "I only had time to make this."

Voters young and not so young gathered at the polls, some voting for the first time, others for the fiftieth.

"I've voted for over 50 years, never missed a vote," said George Huvendick of the first ward as he exited the polls with his wife Marjory. He said voting was vital because "we have the chance of making choices."

Huvendick's conviction that voting was important was a common theme among voters this year.

First-time voter Eric French went with his mother, brother and nephew to the third-ward polls. He said he voted "for my voice to be heard."

Other voters cited the intensely competitive presidential election as their reason for turning out. The third ward's Jeff Miller said unemployment, veterans' affairs and the war in Iraq were all issues that compelled him to make the trip to St. Francis de Sales.

"I just hope it doesn't take as long as the last election to find out who won," Miller said.


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