LIMA — Odd-year elections are often the odd one out, with no presidential or gubernatorial races to garner any attention.
“People don’t see all the races on TV constantly,” said Shelly Burkhart, assistant director of the Putnam County Board of Elections. “During the even years, they see a lot of national and statewide races on television.”
With this year’s election also featuring no state issues and very few county issues in the region, that only adds to the lack of interest in this year’s races.
“We don’t have too much without those this year,” said Karen Lammers, director of the Putnam County Board of Elections.
“This is probably the quietest election I’ve seen since I’ve been on the board,” said Ken Terry, Lammers’ Allen County counterpart.
These factors lend the boards of election for Allen, Putnam and Auglaize counties to believe Tuesday’s election will see either an average or below average turnout at the polls.
“I’m expecting it to be about 30 percent countywide,” Terry said, “with some areas higher than others.”
Another statistic supporting this notion is the number of absentee ballots requested, often seen as an indicator of voter interest leading up to an election.
“Right now, we have 845 absentee ballots,” Lammers said. “That’s lower than a presidential election, naturally, but it’s probably an average election total here.”
Michelle Wilcox, director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections, took an optimistic view of the county’s absentee numbers.
“We’re around 650 on absentee ballots that we’ve mailed out,” she said. “I had predicted around 1,000, but that’s still above average from what we’ve seen in other counties.”
These numbers pale when compared to four years ago. Putnam County had distributed 1,400 absentee ballots that year, almost twice this year’s number. Allen County has also seen a similar trend, with 45 percent of registered voters participating in 2009.
“We had just over 3,800 absentee ballots then,” Terry said. “In this election, we have just over 2,000.”
Despite the expected low voter turnout, that does not equate to less work for those behind the scenes.
“It’s the same amount of work for us anyway,” Terry said. “I was here at 6 a.m. today and I probably won’t leave here until 7 tonight.”
“There is no calm before the storm here,” Wilcox said.
While this election may seem mundane compared to last year’s presidential race or the gubernatorial race next year, Terry and the other directors still encourage voters to participate, reminding the public that the results of these elections hit a lot closer to home.
“These are the people who really affect your day-to-day lives,” he said, “whether it’s deciding where to put a stop sign or making decisions about your child’s education. These are absolutely vital to everyday life, but a lot of people just don’t care.
“Perhaps everybody is just so burned out after last year that no one wants to participate in the political process.”