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Voter turnout reflects interest in local races

8/9/2012

By DAWNE LEIKER

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Western Kansas voter turnout levels for Tuesday's primary election contrasted greatly from county to county, reflecting voter interest in local contested races.

In Ellis County, where only 15 percent of active voters cast a ballot, the only local contested race was a Democratic race for district two county commissioner.

That percent of participation fell dramatically from 2010's primary election when total turnout was 31 percent. Local interest in the 2010 primary likely was sparked by the race for U.S. Senate between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt that year.

In the 2010 Ellis County primary, 74 percent of Ellis County Republicans cast a ballot.

"Competitive races made a difference," said Ellis County Deputy Clerk Donna Maskus.

A better parallel, Maskus said, might be primary voter participation in 2008, where 25 percent of qualified voters turned out. A $3.5 million bond issue for Victoria USD 432 likely spurred voter interest.

Tuesday's primary saw 49.7 percent voter turnout in Cheyenne County, a participation level that's "not bad," according to Cheyenne County Clerk Terry Miller.

There were two contested races, one for county commissioner and one for register of deeds. Results from the race for county commissioner were a "dead heat," with Andy Beikman and Brett Poling each garnering 179 votes.

In addition to local races, many Cheyenne County voters likely were pulling for 120th District Rep. Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, in his race against Rick Billinger, R-Goodland. Cassidy received 75 percent of the Cheyenne County vote and won the primary with 54 percent of the district-wide vote.

State law mandates the board of canvassers request a recount in the instance of a tie vote. That recount will take place Monday when votes are canvassed.

"If it's a tie, which it appears it's going to be, state law says you toss a coin, or draw straws or put a name in a hat," Miller said.

All contested races in Cheyenne County were Republican races. However, Miller said a few Democrats cast ballots for the lone Democratic candidate.

High voter turnout also was seen in Wallace County where 44 percent of eligible voters participated. Interest in the process likely was due to a contested county clerk race, Deputy County Clerk Catherine Abbott said.

The voting process went smoothly, Abbott said, as the new voter ID law caused no hiccups during the day.

"We only had one person forget her ID, and actually she brought hers in this morning," Abbott said. "It actually turned out well."

There were no provisional ballots cast in Cheyenne County, and Miller said only one voter had to leave a polling place to get identification. Overall, Miller said, poll workers saw no problems with the system.

In Ellis County, only one instance of a voter without ID was reported, Maskus said.

"It sounded like most people had their drivers' license right there," she said. "They were ready.

"There were a few that might have had to go back and get it, but everybody in Ellis County did good with it."