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What brings out voters?

Reasons vary among precincts

October 31, 2011
By Ashley Rittenhouse - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Although Jim Brewer has always wanted to register to vote, it wasn't until Marietta City Council 1st Ward candidate Roger Kalter brought him the paperwork that he actually did.

"If he hadn't brought the paperwork, I probably wouldn't have," said Brewer, 64, who has already filled out a ballot for the November election.

Brewer lives in Marietta's Precinct 1A, where, according to data from the Washington County Board of Elections, voter turnout is historically low. The precinct includes part of the Norwood district west of Colegate Drive.

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In the 2009 general election, voter turnout in Precinct 1A was 39.39 percent and in the 2010 general election it was 38.43 percent. Even during the 2008 general election, when there was a presidential race on the ballot, voter turnout in Precinct 1A was lower than in most other wards, with 62.91 percent of voters turning out.

Those numbers are significantly lower than those in Precinct 3A. Figures from the board of elections indicate in the 2009 general election, voter turnout was 61.28 percent in that precinct, while 63.57 percent of voters in Precinct 3A turned out for the 2010 general election. During the 2008 general election, 79.45 percent of voters turned out in Precinct 3A.

"As a councilman, I counted on that high turnout for that ward," said Republican Jon Grimm, who currently serves as 3rd Ward councilman and is running for mayor of Marietta in the November election.

Fact Box

Marietta voter turnout

2008 general election: precincts 3A had highest turnout, with 79.45 percent; Precinct 4A had lowest turnout, with 58.77 percent.

Precinct 3A had highest turnout, with 61.28 percent; Precinct 1A had lowest turnout, with 39.39 percent.

2010 general election: Precinct 3A had highest turnout, with 63.57 percent; Precinct 1A had lowest turnout, with 38.43 percent.

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

Grimm speculated that perhaps the reason why voter turnout is typically higher in his ward than it is in others is because of the type of housing that is there.

"It's primarily an R-1 zone, which means it's a single family dwelling. It's typically not renters, so you're not getting a lot of transients," he said. "The bulk of 3A is the North Hills area and Rathbone (Terrace) primarily and there is Jaycee Estates, but Jaycee Estates is an assisted care (complex) so you will have people that live there longer."

Brewer believes more people would sign up and show up to vote in all the wards if voter registration information wasn't used for jury selection purposes.

"The reason people don't want to votem ... is if you sign up to vote, you're automatically called for jury duty," he said.

Brewer said using citizens' drivers licenses for the purpose of selecting a jury would be a better idea.

Councilman David White, R-1st Ward, said he has lived in precinct 1A for 26 years and voter turnout for that ward has always been low.

"It's a socioeconomic situation. We have a lot of renters in 1A, as they do in 4A, and people move around a lot," White said. "I don't think a lot can be done about that particular aspect - it's just raising voter awareness at all levels."

Kalter said he has been trying to raise awareness about the importance of voting by hand delivering voter registration forms and applications for absentee voting to residents in the 1st Ward.

"Some folks give up, they simply disengage, it makes no difference or it's never been an ingrained part of their lifestyle, and we're trying to change that," Kalter said.

Washington County Board of Elections director Peggy Byers said it's hard to tell what makes some people more motivated than others to get out and vote.

"Sometimes there's more interest in what's going on (and) it kind of can depend on the candidates," she said. "It sounds like this time, the candidates are going door-to- door, so it seems like that would shake up some interest."



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