County Primary Races Still Too Close In Worcester; Official Results Due Next Week

SNOW HILL — As official results for the 2014 primary election draw closer, a few of the races in Worcester County too close to call last week remained that way this week.

Final numbers aren’t expected until next week but one thing that everyone has agreed on so far is that voter turnout was disappointingly low this year and continues to be part of a downward trend in activity during primaries.

While unofficial results are in, Worcester residents will have to wait until July 7 for final confirmation on the election, specifically the tight races on the Worcester County Commissioner front.

“We still have two more counts to go through,” said Patti Jackson, supervisor for the Worcester County Elections Board. “[Tuesday was] our provisional ballot count and then we have a final absentee count on the 7th, which would include any ballots that might have been post-marked the election day that we didn’t receive until now.”

It’s unlikely that a flood of new votes will be counted between now and next Monday, meaning that the current numbers are a good approximation of this year’s totals from a turnout perspective. The results were underwhelming as far as turnout is concerned.

“A lot of people don’t vote in the primary but it was unbelievable the turnout,” said Scott Baker, a candidate for the Worcester County Board of Education’s District 4 who will be advancing to the general election in the fall by virtue of his second place finish in the primary behind Bill Gordy.

During the election last week, Baker said that he visited all of the polling places in his district and was surprised by how empty he found most of them. Some locations barely managed to attract more than a dozen voters while others in his district were at least able to hit triple digits. If the numbers are any indication, the lack of interest among Worcester residents extends to most districts.

Going by the current figures, a total voter turnout of 20.21 percent has been seen for the 2014 primary election in the county, compared to 21.75 percent in the 2012 primary.

The reason why interest continues to weaken is unclear, though holding the primary in June could have contributed to people missing the date.

“Some people probably just forgot that it was a primary day,” said Jim Bunting, an incumbent Worcester County Commissioner who defeated his primary opponent last week and is unopposed in the general election this fall.

“I think it was a combination of it being in June, most people think September or November,” agreed Jackson, “and also some of the races weren’t opposed and so I think maybe people didn’t want to come out and vote.”

One area where there has been some improvement is in early voting. According to information on the State Board of Elections’ website, early voting turnout dropped from 3.16 percent to 2.94 percent between the 2010 and 2012 primary but rose this year to 3.85 percent. A statewide extension of early voting days from six to eight this election cycle likely contributed to the moderate increase.

Besides an underwhelming turnout, this primary election in Worcester has the distinction of holding some extremely close races that won’t be decided until next week.

Among the County Commissioners, both District 4 and District 5 primary contests remain too close to call. In District 4, Kathryn Danko-Lord and Ted Elder are close in the Republican primary at 211 and 214 votes, respectively. The three-vote gap that separated them last week remains after further review of ballots. The Republican primary for District 5 has Chip Bertino leading Grant Helvey at 328 votes to 317, a wider margin than District 4, but still one that could easily be upset by the final count next week.