Voter turnout low for Tuesday primary

Voter turnout for the city primary slumped Tuesday as the lack of contested races for both parties seemed to keep voters uninterested in selecting party nominees for offices.

The turnout Tuesday was nearly 14 percent, or just 4,010 people voting out of 29,201 registered voters in the city, according to the Bartholomew County clerk’s office. Of that total, 1,132 were votes cast in early voting and 2,748 were cast on Tuesday.

That compares to a nearly 26 percent turnout four years ago when then-challenger and now Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop beat incumbent Kristen Brown for the Republican nomination with about 7,900 people voting out of 30,597 registered voters in the city.

This year, polls opened at 6 a.m. with very slow turnout Tuesday morning, said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps. But he said he anticipated the numbers would pick up as the morning progressed.

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That prediction proved correct as voting turnout at the city’s eight voting centers around the city had 1,000 votes in the first four hours of voting.

“And we haven’t hit the lunch time rush yet,” Phelps said as voting continued.

By 1 p.m., the voter turnout numbers were approaching 3,000, the predicted number Phelps had given as a possibility for the entire turnout for Tuesday’s voting. But that represented only about 9 percent of registered voters eligible to vote in the city.

Phelps said he had gone with his wife to vote at Grace Lutheran Church’s voting center early Tuesday morning and there were six to seven people in line, something he saw as an encouraging sign that the city vote could exceed the 3,000 or so voters that election officials were predicting.

The good weather, sunshine and warm temperatures, were helping, he said.

Voters could choose from any voting center to make their choice, and Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Central Ave. and St. John’s Masonic Lodge, 4131 Rocky Ford Road once again proved the most popular voting locations.

Lienhoop and his wife Pam stopped in at the west-side vote center to talk with voters at about 9:30 a.m. Lienhoop, who handily beat challenger Glenn Petri on Tuesday for the GOP nomination for mayor by a 71 percent to 29 percent margin, was visiting different polling places Tuesday morning and “stopping in to say hello,” he said.

Several candidates, including Lienhoop and his family, and Republicans Dascal Bunch, Josh Burnett and Chris Rutan, and Democrat Grace Kestler, also stopped to visit with voters at Donner Center.

On the city’s west side, the German American Bank vote center on Jonathan Moore Pike had seen about 36 voters in three hours early Tuesday morning, said Gail Burkett, a Republican inspector. Workers said about 10 people an hour were trickling in to vote.

“Donner gets all the action,” said Sharon Krieg, another inspector at the site.