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Published: Wednesday, 5/16/2007

Voters turned out everywhere - except the polls

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - People in Fulton County have been known to be passionate about politics.

They are patriotic. They fly the flag.

But officials held an election in Fulton County last week, and most people didn't come.

Some went to the movies. Some worked late in their yards. Others were shopping for prom dresses, Mother's Day gifts, or graduation party supplies. Or maybe they simply forgot to vote.

After polls closed and the numbers were tallied, voter turnout had slipped to the lowest level in at least 30 years - possibly longer.

Voting locations could have been crowded with 28,934 registered voters but only 2,757 people cast ballots on a countywide tax issue. That's a mere 9.7 percent.

Brett Kolb said that could be the "lowest ever" in the county. Mr. Kolb, the Fulton County Board of Elections director, checked back to 1987 and didn't find any number below 9.7 percent. He had predicted a turnout of 15 percent of the county's nearly 29,000 registered voters.

Turnout was 11.9 percent when 17 precincts were open in May, 2005, and 13.2 percent in May, 2001, during a countywide election, Mr. Kolb said.

However, as he looked back at voting records, he did find numbers much higher, including in November, 1980, when 80.46 percent of the registered voters went to the polls. Of about 18,000 voters, 14,000 of them cast ballots.

Last week in the village of Lyons, a town with a population of about 560 residents, just over 40 people cast ballots on a tax levy and a park levy.

Both issues won - with 31 votes in favor of the parks levy and 33 votes for the village's operating levy.

Countywide, there were 2,757 total votes cast for the Fulton County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities tax levy out of a possible 28,934 votes. The levy was approved.

During a special meeting Friday, low-voter turnout was mentioned as one of the possible reasons for defeat of Swanton's emergency levy. Board member Dennis Heban said he would like to think that more than 748 people - the number who voted for the levy - support Swanton schools.

Swanton Superintendent Neil Weber said some people told him they thought the levy would pass. He said he guesses "a lot of them didn't vote."

And neither did thousands of other registered voters across Fulton County.



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