Originally created 07/10/98

Low primary turnout foreseen

About 30 percent of Columbia County's approximately 50,800 registered voters are expected to exercise their right to cast ballots in the primary election July 21, said Rudy Olson, executive director of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

"It will probably be more like 25 percent, but I'm going to be an optimist and say 30 percent," she said. "In a primary, the turnout is generally lower than in a general election or in a presidential election year. I'm going to attribute it to that."

So far, her office has received only 140 absentee ballots for the upcoming primary.

"That's low," Ms. Olson said. "We should have about 300 to 500 at this point."

Only 13 percent of registered voters participated in a 1997 special school sales tax election, Ms. Olson said.

In the presidential primary election in 1996, there was 30 percent voter participation, and in the last state election, voter turnout was 34 percent.

Since the 1997 election, the number of people registered to vote in the county has increased by 4,300.

Ms. Olson attributes the increase in the number of registered voters to the motor-voter law, which makes it more convenient to register. Since it was implemented in 1995, 17,800 people have registered to vote in Columbia County, Ms. Olson said.

While motor-voter legislation has been successful in increasing the number of registered voters, it has done little to increase voter participation, she said.

"I see a trend in decreasing voter turnout," Ms. Olson said. "Though we've increased the number of voters through motor-voter, the percentage of turnout is that much lower."


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