Primary Voter Turnout Is Down So Far, But Efficiency Is Way Up
Primary voting at the Fairgrounds and Restoration Church was slow, but fast, Tuesday.
The number of voters by 10:30 a.m. at the 14 precincts at the Industrial Building was less than in previous years, some poll workers said.
On the other hand, the efficiency was way up.
"There's no lines," Marlene Ashbaugh said.
Ashbaugh and Linda Sweeney are poll workers for the Dean Morgan Junior High School precinct, which is one of the largest in the city with nearly 1,000 registered voters.
This precinct usually has a half-dozen workers to verify names and addresses, have voters sign affidavits, register same-day voters, change party affiliations, explain ballots, and perform other duties, Ashbaugh and Sweeney said.
But a battery of poll workers in the center of the Industrial Building handles most of those jobs much faster with their computers, they said.
These workers verify voters' information and party affiliation. They then print out a label with the voter's name, precinct and party affiliation.
The voter walks to the precinct heralded by a large banner, presents the label, receives the appropriate ballot, votes, and slips the ballot into the ballot machine.
And leaves about five minutes after walking through the doors.
"We used to have five or six people," Ashbaugh said. "Now there's just two, so I think it's really helped."
Over at the Restoration Church, poll workers reported similar stories of efficiency and pleased voters.
"I love this new system," Maryjo Schubargo said. "It's really smooth."
Schubargo worked the table for the Kelly Walsh High School precinct, which has about 1,200 registered voters, she said.
On the other hand, the number of people who cast ballots Tuesday is down.
The contradiction of efficiency and lower voter turnout so far comes from the consolidation of 14 precincts in Wards I and II in central and west Casper at the Industrial Building for the primary and general election.
The county also consolidated six precincts in Ward III in east Casper at the Restoration Church, 411 S. Walsh Drive.
Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto, with the approval of the Natrona County Commission, made the decision because of complaints about problems at school polling places and Shepherd of the Valley nursing home in Paradise Valley.
Those problems included parking, access for the handicapped, tightened school security and construction. Regarding construction, Kelly Walsh is finishing a massive reconstruction and Dean Morgan is virtually isolated now because of street repairs.
But consolidation posed its own problems, especially driving farther to vote and concerns about so many precincts in two locations.
Many voters took care of some of those by casting absentee ballots in a record number, which may account for the lower apparent turnout, Ashbaugh and Sweeney said.
But the efficiency of the consolidated voting seems to be worth it, Sweeney said.
"I hope more people will like it and tell others," she said.
The polls close at 7 p.m. today. For more election information, visit the Natrona County Clerk's elections website.
Follow K2radio.com for election results tonight.