11/04/09 — Elections see less than 4 percent voter turnout

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Elections see less than 4 percent voter turnout

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 4, 2009 1:46 PM

Voters in Wayne County municipalities stayed home Tuesday as Election Day came and went with barely a notice by most residents.

With only 20 polling places open and fewer than half of the county's 69,000 registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the five municipal elections and five sanitary district elections, only 3.32 percent of the electorate turned out to make its choices known.

The two elections that generated the most interest were those in Pikeville and Mount Olive.

In Pikeville, residents had a contested mayoral race, six people running for two commissioner seats and, for the fourth time in nine years, the opportunity to vote to allow alcohol sales in town.

There, turnout reached between 20 percent and 30 percent.

In Mount Olive, residents also had a contested mayoral race -- though all five commissioner seats were unopposed -- turnout reached between 20 percent and 30 percent at the Mount Olive Fire Station, and between 10 percent and 20 percent at the First United Methodist Church.

Other elections were held in Eureka, Seven Springs and Walnut Creek, as well as in the Belfast-Patetown Sanitary District, the Eastern Wayne Sanitary District, the Fork Township Sanitary District, the Southeastern Wayne Sanitary District and the Southern Wayne Sanitary District.

Turnout for each those races was all below 10 percent.

However, said county Board of Elections Director Vickie Reed, that was to be expected.

"It was pretty slow. It was just about what we anticipated," she said. "Our biggest ones, I believe, were in Mount Olive and Pikeville, of course. Those were really the only two races."

Of course, the low turnout also didn't come as a surprise after only 59 people cast ballots at the one-stop voting at the county Board of Elections office.

"That was slower than we thought," Ms. Reed said.

The last time an off-year municipal election was held was in 2007, but then members of the Goldsboro City Council were up for election, helping to increase turnout, she said.

As to why more people didn't cast ballots Tuesday, though, "there's never a good answer for that," she said. "But municipal and sanitary district elections are usually low turnout elections."

The results from Tuesday's voting will not be official until after canvass on Nov. 10. Also at that point, Ms. Reed explained, the write-in votes will be read, counted and tallied and the winners of the Eureka mayor and two commissioner seats will be announced.

"That's when we'll find out who's the mayor of Eureka," she said. "We will declare the winners and then mail a certificate of election to each of the winners."

Overall, though, despite the low number of voters using the facilities, Ms. Reed declared the day a success and said that things "went very smoothly."