Voter turnout near 20 percent in Maricopa County - East Valley Tribune: News

Voter turnout near 20 percent in Maricopa County

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Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 8:36 pm | Updated: 11:06 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Voters trickled into the polls Tuesday in what was shaping up to be among the lowest primary election turnouts in recent years.

Election officials were predicting that fewer than 20 percent of Maricopa County's 1.6 million voters would cast ballots in the primary or return the early ballots that were mailed to them.

 LIVE: Watch election workers tabulate early ballots


Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne was scratching her head shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m., and blamed the Labor Day holiday.

"I'm really shocked at the low turnout. I don't know what to think," she said. "The day after the holiday is the pits."

About 500,000 county voters requested early mail-in ballots. Fewer than half had been returned by Tuesday, though it remained to be seen how many voters dropped off ballots at polling places.

"People are just not coming out," said Yvonne Reed of the Maricopa County Elections Department. "We'll be doing good if we get 20 percent."

In Scottsdale, just 16,000 of the 46,000 early ballots had been returned by late afternoon.

City Clerk Carolyn Jagger said poll workers were reporting light turnout, and believed that the permanent early voter list was a key reason.

For the first time this year, voters could be placed on a list and automatically receive an early ballot - on July 31 this year - rather than having to request one as in years past.

That means more people may be voting at the kitchen table, but elections officials won't know that for a few more days.

Another factor that likely affected Tuesday's turnout was the date - the primary was moved up a week, and fell at the end of a holiday weekend.

Osborne said one north Scottsdale precinct that typically sees 300 to 400 voters counted only about 100 ballots.

Beverly Fox-Miller, chairwoman of the Greater Eastern Maricopa Democrats, said her office received calls from people whose polling locations had changed and who were unsure about what sort of identification was required to vote.

For the first time, she said, the county sent just one sample ballot per household, and that left some voters searching for answers.

"We have a lot of confusion out there," she said.

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