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UPDATE: Voter Turnout Light At Bethesda Precincts

A steady trickle of voters cast their ballots at Bethesda precincts Tuesday.

Update, 8:40 p.m.: Voter turnout remained light at Bethesda precincts Tuesday evening, though election judges at the polling location reported the flow of voters had been steady throughout the day.

“We’ve had close to 500, so that’s a lot for most precincts,” said Chief Election Judge Austin King.

As of 3 p.m., 231 Democrats, 121 Republicans, and eight voters affiliated with neither party had voted of the 2318 Democrats, 857 Republicans and 915 voters affiliated with neither party in the precinct. 

Elsewhere in Bethesda, voter turnout was similar. At Bethesda Elementary, 200 Democrats, 88 Republicans, and eight voters affiliated with neither party cast their ballot as of 3 p.m. where 2247 Democratic voters, 679 Republican voters, and 922 voters affiliated with neither party are registered in the precinct.

Besides one machine malfunctioning and being taken out of use at Whitman, there were no glitches to report, despite that all but a few of the election judges had never worked an election before, King said.

Many of the usual poll workers in the precinct were on vacation for spring break, and the Board of Elections trained several new judges on a quick turnaround before the primary, according to King.

“People want to do their civic duty, and that’s why we’re here,” King said.

Suzi Kaplan, another chief election judge, agreed.

“It’s a good rehearsal for the general election in November,” Kaplan said.

Whitman was one of the stops today for Rebecca Smondrowski, vying for a chance to run in November for a school board seat. Smondrowski said she stopped by to introduce herself to voters and thank them for coming out.

“It's very hard for people to get to know someone reading a blurb with 150 words or less,” Smondrowski said.

Smondrowski said many of the voters she spoke with Tuesday either “don’t know much about the Board of Education race or are coming out for the Board of Education race.”

Smondrowski said she hoped to drive home the importance of the race even for residents without children in school. “If you own a home here, if you work here, if you own a business here, having successful students affects all of us,” she said.

Voter Shelly Greenberg said she voted in the Board of Education race for Saqib Ali.

“I heard him talk about how we’re getting too dependent on computerized ways of teaching kids, and how teachers should teach kids,” Greenberg said. “I’m a big believer in that.”

Original Post, 12 p.m.:  Voter turnout was light this morning in Bethesda as polls opened for Tuesday's primary election.

By 9 a.m., the polling location at was seeing a slow trickle of voters. When polls opened at 7 a.m., about three voters were waiting in line there, according to polling official Bill Felling.

“Primary elections are always light, but this seems exceptionally light,” Felling said.

Forty three Democrats and 19 Republicans casted their ballots by 9 a.m. with about 25 of those showing up in the first hour, Felling said.

Campaigning outside the library, Marcus Alzona, of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, said he showed up because he wanted to show support for Republicans in heavily democratic Montgomery County.

He also wanted to support his father, Gus Alzona, a Bethesda resident who is vying for the chance to run in the November general election for Rep. Chris Van Hollen's District 8 Congressional seat.

“We’re trying to make sure other Republicans know they’re not alone – we’re here with you,” Alzona said.

The Republican party in the county represents a diversity of political thought, from social conservatives to fiscal conservatives to those who lean towards Libertarianism, like himself, Alzona said. While there’s support for a variety of Republican presidential hopefuls, Alzona said he believes a concern about expanding government unites the group here.

“In general, we’re against higher taxes and wasteful government spending,” he said.

Education was a top issue that drew voters to the polls Tuesday, especially Democrats not voting in the Republican primary. On the county school board, candidates are vying to run for one of the at-large seats and seats in Districts 2 and 4.

“It was the only choice that seemed to matter at all to me,” said Democrat Scottie Allen, who voted at Bethesda Library. Allen said she called a friend who is a former teacher before deciding to vote for Jeanne Ellinport, who is campaigning for the county Board of Education.

At voter Ken Levinson, also a Democrat, agreed that education was an issue that drew him to the polls.

He showed up to vote along with his daughter Lauren, who is in second grade at the elementary school. “I like including my daughter so she has a chance to see how the system works,” Levinson said.

Beth Donovan April 03, 2012 at 06:33 PM
The low voter turnout is troubling, as the School Board races are on the ballot and they are really important! I have three kids in MCPS and want to make sure they continue to get a decent education. When I was walking into the poll, the teachers were in front with a list of the candidates, so I knew who to support. Regardless of who one votes for, this election shouldn't be decided by a few people!
Kathleen McManus April 03, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Maybe more people would turn out to vote if they had a better choice of candidates. But I agree with those in the article that our schools are worth turning out to vote. I don't have children in the public schools (oldest daughter just graduated), but know we need people in office who care about more than just getting elected. Like Scottie Allen, I asked people who are still active in the PTA and voted for Jeanne Ellinport cuz she seemed like someone new who will look at things from a different perspective, but some of the others have been around for a while. We need more people to get involved and run for office, but today we just need people to come out and vote!

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