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Primary turnout down but still beats state figure

Aug 28, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County's participation in the primary election nearly matched the last presidential year contest at about 52 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.

The Aug. 21 election had 7,904 voters out of 15,097 registered in the county, for a turnout of 52.35 percent, according to official results issued by Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese's office.

Fremont County's 2008 primary had a 52.32 percent turnout with 8,173 voters out of 15,621 registered. By comparison, the 2010 primary had a 54.37 percent turnout with 9,690 ballots cast out of 17,822 total registered voters.

This year's county primary was among the lowest for voter participation in the past two decades.

Results provided by Freese going back to 1994 showed the lowest primary turnout was in 2006's off-presidential year contest at 49.81 percent.

Other years with a comparatively low primary election turnout happened in 1996 with nearly 57 percent and 1998 with 58 percent.

The county's primary turnout this year was stronger than the statewide results.

Wyoming election director Peggy Nighswonger, in a press release issued the day after the primary, said turnout "was just under 50 percent" of registered voters.

The amount represented 25 percent "of those eligible to vote," Nighswonger said.

Results from past elections indicate a much stronger turnout for the November general.

In 2010, the county had a nearly 76 percent turnout, while the 2008 general hit close to 105 percent due to voter registration at the polls.

The official results from this month's primary election came after the Fremont County Canvassing Board convened to review outcomes in each voting precinct, including write-in candidates.

Freese said no Democratic Party candidates qualified to run in any of the three commission races on the November ballot.

"In the partisan races, they needed at least 25 votes, be a Democrat, and be in the correct district," she said. "We had write-ins but nobody in that threshold."

Some municipal races will see an expanded field of candidates due to write-in votes. "For municipalities, they had to have three votes, and be the top vote-getter, and be in the right ward or town," Freese said.

The uncontested Lander City Council Ward 3 seat held by Linda Barton could get a contender, with Wendell Hudson getting 65 votes and Ronald Cunningham receiving 22, Freese said.

"Only one gets to go on," she added. "I haven't heard from anybody. We sent those letters out Friday."

In the Dubois Town Council race for two seats with three candidates, another may join the fold, with John Meyer earning enough to go on the ballot, Freese said.

If Meyer chooses to enter the race, he would compete against incumbents David Bennett and Rick Lee and newcomer Charles Whaley for the two available four-year seats.

Pavillion voters may get an extra candidate in either the race for the pair of two-year and four-year seats. Eileen Smith qualified as a write-in candidate for each race, Freese said.

"We send these both to her and she gets to decide and that will leave a seat open," she said.

Already on the Pavillion ballot are Bud Kisling and Danette Williams seeking the pair of two-year seats, while the two four-year seats have MJ Larsen and Tauna GroomSmith. Potentially four candidates in the two-year and four-year races can appear on the general election ballot.

Smith was the only individual to qualify as a write-in candidate for Pavillion's two-year seats, but Mary Noffsinger also qualified for the four-year race with three votes, Freese said.

Smith could decide to accept the two-year nomination, allowing Noffsinger to be a candidate in the four-year race if she chooses, she said.

No candidates in Hudson qualified as a write-in nominee to appear on the general election ballot, Freese said.

Municipal clerks have until Sept. 6 to finalize their candidates and ballots for the Nov. 6 election.

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