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Turnout very low for primary

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By John Barnhart

    Virginia held a primary last Tuesday to select the Democratic Party’s candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general. The primary was held on June 11.
    You didn’t vote? It seems hardly anybody in Bedford or Bedford County did. According to Bedford County Registrar Barbara Gunter, only 409 votes were cast in the county.
    “That includes absentee ballots,” she said.
    “We had one precinct with zero votes,” she commented.
    Poll workers had very little to do in others. According to Gunter, one county precinct had only one voter the entire day. Another had two and another had three.
    “It makes for a very long day for them [the poll workers],” Gunter said.
    Voter turnout in the county for the primary amounted to 0.83 percent, according to Gunter. She did not have final figures on the primary’s cost, but Gunter said it typically costs her office $30,000 to conduct a primary. This means the primary cost county taxpayers $73 for each vote cast.
    “It’s very disheartening,” Gunter said of the low voter turnout.
    Gunter mentioned two factors that she believes account for the low voter turnout.
    “Bedford tends to be predominantly Republican, for one thing,” she said.
    “We really didn’t see much candidate info  distributed in this area,” Gunter added, stating the second factor.
    The city had a slightly higher voter turnout for the primary. City Registrar Randi Herrick said 1.39 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots. That amounted to a total of 54 voters during the entire day. Herrick said it typically costs her office between $3,500 and $4,000 to run a primary. This means each vote cast cost city taxpayers between $65 and $75 per vote.
    “I think it was [that] people didn’t know the candidates,” she said. “They were from Northern Virginia and people just didn’t know them.”
    According to Gunter, the Virginia Registrars’ Association suggested at the last General Assembly session, as a cost saving measure in light of the low voter turnout at primaries, that registrars could be allowed to open a limited number of polling places. This suggestion was not adopted.
    Ralph S. Northam won the Democrat’s nod for lieutenant governor; Mark R. Herring emerged as the candidate for attorney general.