Low turnout expected in Clark County for Tuesday primary vote

Auditor predicts no higher than 20 percent

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Interest in Tuesday's primary election appears to be seriously lacking among registered voters.

Through Aug. 2, only 16,281 of 125,973 ballots, or 13 percent, had been returned.

Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber anticipates turnout will be between 17 and 18 percent, and Auditor Greg Kimsey predicted it will reach no higher than 20 percent.

Ballots were sent to voters in the cities of Vancouver, Battle Ground, Washougal and La Center, the Washougal School District and Clark County Fire & Rescue District.

Garber said the primary election immediately following a presidential election tends to have low turnout, but projections are for an even lower turnout than usual.

In 2009, voter turnout in the county primary was 23 percent, while it hit 43 percent in the 2005 primary. In 2005, however, there was a C-Tran tax measure that likely drove up the participation rate.

Voter turnout in last year's primary election was 30 percent, putting Clark dead last in voter participation among the state's 39 counties. Clark also ranked last among counties for turnout in the 2008 primary election.

Kimsey speculated last year that so few registered voters bother to fill out ballots because 50,000 of them work in Oregon and may feel disconnected to local politics. It also doesn't help that people watch Portland television news stations and listen to Portland radio stations, which rarely report on Clark County races, Kimsey said.

Ballots must be postmarked no later than Tuesday. They may also be dropped off at the Clark County Elections Office, 1408 Franklin St.

A drive-up red ballot collection box, one block east of the office, makes it so voters don't even have to get out of their vehicles.

On Tuesday, there will be several drop-off locations staffed by elections workers including Battle Ground City Hall, La Center Community Center, Ridgefield Nazarene Church, Washougal Community Center and several schools. To see the complete list, go to http://www.clarkvotes.org.

Primary election results will be released at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The top two finishers in each race advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.