County primary goes off without a hitch, and with relatively few voters

Huntington County Recorder Cheryl Schenkel (left) and her husband Roger pay close attention to a monitor displaying Huntington County Republican primary election results at a Republican gathering at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Tuesday, May 6.
Huntington County Recorder Cheryl Schenkel (left) and her husband Roger pay close attention to a monitor displaying Huntington County Republican primary election results at a Republican gathering at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Tuesday, May 6. Photo by Scott Trauner.

Tuesday's primary election went off without a hitch, election officials say.

It also went off with relatively few voters, garnering a turnout of just 16.41 percent.

Four years ago, when the same offices were on the ballot, Huntington County saw a turnout of 33.20 percent.
But even though the offices were the same in 2010, the competition was different.

"We had a sheriff's race, and that made a difference," County Clerk Kittie Keiffer said of the 2010 primary. "And there were several contested races with three and four people for one position."

This year, Sheriff Terry Stoffel had no opposition. There were five county races, and each of those races had only two candidates.

"It was because of it not being a very heavily contested election," Ken Zuk, the Democrat member of the Huntington County Election Board, said of the low turnout.

This year, Huntington County had 25,024 registered voters. Of that number, 4,873 cast ballots - 768 during the absentee voting period, and 4,105 on Election Day.

Four years ago, the number of registered voters was 1,120 fewer, standing at just 23,904. But 3,000 more people cast ballots in 2010 than in 2014. Of the 7,937 who voted in the 2010 primary, 766 voted absentee and 7,168 voted on Election Day.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the low number of voters, the election process was "incredibly quiet," said Pam Fowler, voter registration clerk in the county clerk's office.

"We had the usual - people showed up at the wrong precinct, and we found out where they were supposed to be and sent them on their way," Keiffer added.
Voting machines sported new, easier to read screens, and Keiffer said election workers heard "a lot of nice comments on the screens."

This year's poll workers included a large number of first-timers, and Fowler said the problem-free day and low turnout afforded a good opportunity to break those people in.

"It went really smoothly for all of those people," Keiffer said. "We had a lot of new poll workers this year; we even had a couple of 17-year-olds helping."
Seventeen is the youngest age someone can work the polls on Election Day.

"We had many new ones in their 30s and 40s," Keiffer said. "We're hoping they stay a while."

Results from the first of Huntington County's 36 precincts were turned in to the county clerk's office at 6:15 p.m., just 15 minutes after the polls closed.
Results came in steadily throughout the evening for the next hour.

With just six precincts left to count, though, a recalcitrant machine refused to give up its data. The election board solved the problem by turning the machine off and then back on, a common IT solution.

The final results were tallied just before 7:30 p.m., but they will remain unofficial until being certified by the election board.