Sunday, June 24, 2001

Less than 6 percent of voters choose commission candidates

Pfeifer, Gilbert in runoff July 10


Tuesday was long and tedious for Fayette County poll workers.

But the counting was quick. Workers started arriving at the county's election office 15 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m., and the counting was over in an hour.

"That was the longest day I've ever been through," said one poll worker as he dropped off the ballots for counting.

The quick count and the boredom of the workers was due to the same thing an unusually low voter turnout for the special election to replace county Commissioner Harold Bost. Only 3,076 voters, less than 6 percent of the county's 51,466 registered voters, showed up.

Scott Gilbert and Peter Pfeifer had the top vote totals and will face each other in a runoff July 10, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as always.

Pfeifer led the field of five candidates with 1,227 votes, 40 percent of the total, with Gilbert trailing with 857, just under 30 percent. State law requires that a candidate receive at least 50 percent of the total, plus one; failing that, the top two are in a runoff.

Stephen Ott took third place with 517 votes, with Brian Bischoff 308 and Charlie Mask 148 trailing.

Election supervisor Carolyn Combs declined to speculate on the reason for the low turnout. Elections with only one race on the ballot are often somewhat low, and the distractions of summer may also have contributed.

It wasn't the lowest turnout in recent years, said Combs. A runoff in 1998 for an obscure state post also drew about 6 percent.

When turnout is low for an election, historically it's even lower in the runoff, but Combs said it doesn't have to be that way. If you were eligible to vote Tuesday and didn't, you are still eligible to vote July 10.

"We've had a lot of calls from people asking that question," said Combs.

Absentee ballots for the runoff should be available soon, said Combs. For information, phone the election office at 770-460-5730, extension 5408.

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