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Low Turnout for Primary Voting

Campaign supporters out in droves, but voters are at a "steady trickle."

Check out our photo gallery of Tuesday's primary voting here.

Update, 5 p.m.: Is early voting responsible for low turnout?

An ad-hoc report on early voting released today by the Maryland Board of Elections doesn't seem to explain away low returns in today's primary. In Montgomery County, only 1.3 percent of the voters eligible to cast ballots in today's primary took advantage of early voting, a total of 7,885 voters in all.

Friendship survives hotly contested race

At Forest Knolls Elementary, the Roger Manno-Mike Lenett race for the Maryland Senate in District 19 was the top priority. The precinct happens to have the same boundary as the Northwood-Four Corners civic association. Two of the association members were out campaigning — for opposite candidates.

"Mike Lenett did the most to make me a Manno supporter, " said Ed Levy, citing campaign tactics by Lenett that he did not believe in.

Carole Barth, who was handing out granola energy bars with Lenett's campaign logo on them, had a different take.

"I think when you look at the record, he's passed two dozen bills and become part of the Senate leadership," she said, adding she appreciated his willingness to communicate with constituents. "He's been there for the community."

Regardless of their opposing views, Barth and Levy still considered themselves friends and were jovial with each other while handing out literature to incoming voters. 

All politics is really really local

The two chief election judges at Sligo Middle School are from the same street: Dunkirk Drive.

"Most of the people on our street voted this morning, " said Henrik Erslev, a chief election judge at Sligo. At 2:30 p.m., the precinct, which has 1,650 registered voters, had 178 votes cast.

Update, noon: Turnout at Wheaton's polling locations continued to be slow by midday. After two hours of voting, Wheaton High precinct's had 40 voters out of a total 1,600 registered. At 10 a.m., 50 voters had placed their ballot at Glenallan Elementary (out of 1,210) and the count had reached as high as 145 voters at Kennedy High School (in a district of close to 4,200 voters). E. Brooke Lee had a slightly better ratio by 11:30 a.m. with 169 votes out of a total 2,143.

In fact, at larger polling sites like Kennedy, supporters and Democratic precinct captains outnumbered the people on their way inside to vote. One voter, Rita Bradley, was surrounded by literature and supporters as she approached the school.

"I can't vote for any of these people. I'm a registered Republican!" Bradley said as she surveyed the flyers and cards in front of her.

Those who had come out to vote said they had made their decision before walking in the door, but it hadn't been an easy choice.

"It's been a process," said Teresa Billings, a voter at Kennnedy. "We've gotten a lot of literature — maybe too much."

Elaine Gaskill agreed: "I cleared three messages from my phone this morning, all from candidates." 

Of all the candidates she voted for, Gaskill felt strongest about District 19 State Senator Mike Lenett. 

"I've met him, we had a event for him at our house and I liked what he talked about," Gaskill said. 

One of the flyers at Kennedy was about the only race unaffiliated voters could vote in: board of education candidates.

Donna and Lyle Jaffe handed out flyers in support of Lyda Astrong, Agnes Jones-Trower and Louis Wilen, all board of education challengers. 

While they do not have children in the school system, the Jaffes were concerned about friends who had students in Kemp Mill Elementary, recently upset by charges that the principal falsified a student's statement that the young man had been inappropriately touched.

"We feel that [the current board of education] are not supporting the students, parents and teachers, and are instead supporting the principal."

Original post, 8 a.m.: As voting began early Tuesday morning for the primary elections, turnout was low, even with contested elections in both state senate districts and the Montgomery County Council.

"El Stinko. The worst turnout I've seen in 20 years. We've seen maybe a dozen people," said Democratic precinct chair Russ Feldner a little before 8 a.m. at Highland Elementary.

Volunteers were also in short supply at the voting area. Carol Lee Hillwick, a precinct captain at the Wheaton Recrecational Center, was excited when a young man showed up to help her set up signs along the driveway.

"It's hard to get people to volunteer in the primaries," Hillwick said. "There's no glory in it."

A few voters did show up, even if for races that weren't contested. 

"I still think my vote counts, and I want to a strong showing for the candidates I support," said Karen Carlson, who voted at the Wheaton Rec Center. 

Dave Badner and Margaret Hardy stopped by the table of Marcie Waldstreitcher, who was up early supporting her brother Jeff, running as an incumbent in the District 18 delegate race.

"I'm suspicious of anyone running on a tax-cut promise," Badner said. "How are you going to fund the programs we already have?" 

Both Badner and Hardy said they wouldn't vote on things they didn't know about, but they voted early in the morning because they were decided on races like the council county and governor. 

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