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Columbia Missourian

Voter turnout higher than anticipated in primary election

By Jeff Lautenberger
August 3, 2010 | 11:49 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Turnout in Boone County for Tuesday's primary was 23.85 percent of 90,460 registered voters. That figure is significantly higher than the 18 percent prediction made by the clerk's office last week.

The turnout was also higher than the Aug. 5, 2008, primary, when 18 percent of those registered voted. In comparison to other recent elections, the 2008 presidential primary brought out 47.91 percent of the voters, and the 2008 general election the following November saw an 83.65 percent turnout.

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Most election officials described turnout as light or average throughout the day, but some did notice a higher-than-average trend at the polls, including election official Glenda Moore at the Ashland Optimist Club.

"Turnout has been very good so far," Moore said Tuesday morning, as a steady stream of cars flowed through the parking lot.

Voters seemed to be especially drawn to cast their ballot on Proposition C, the health care initiative. In Boone County, 60 percent of the voters approved the proposition. Approval for Proposition C tallied 71.1 percent statewide.

Heat proved to have a minimal effect on turnout. In 2008, the mercury spiked at 90 degrees with maximum heat index of 103. Tuesday's reported high was 96, with a heat index of 108.

Across the county, election officials said the new electronic voter sign-in system was a welcome change from the paper rosters historically used to sign-in voters at polling places.

For the first time, Boone County used a combination of laptops and scanners to expedite the processing of voters at polling stations.

Voters brought a document with a bar code to the polls to be scanned and  automatically identified. After election officials asked for verbal name verification, a ticket was printed, which allowed voters to receive their ballots. 

"The speed of these (electronic polling books) is great,” said election official Linda Easley, the on-site supervisor at the Ashland Senior Center.

Easley said the system was very intuitive and she had not encountered any problems.

“We were trained by Wendy Noren’s office — about six hours but it felt more like 12,” she said.

In her precinct, Easley observed a 50/50 split of voters who brought documents to be scanned versus those using the traditional method of checking picture IDs. A check of other precincts, including Lenoir Community Center and Boone County Government Center, indicated lower participation with the new technology.

In the November election, scanners will be able to detect bar codes on Missouri driver’s licenses, as well as on the mailed voter information.