Voters were trickling in to polling locations this morning, much to the surprise of the elections officials manning the stations.
“I’m surprised we haven’t had more people turn out,” said Arlen Loecker, supervising judge at Highland Ridge Clubhouse for Ward 11-1 and 11-3.
Loecker said most of the voters in Ward 11 are military, which he believed had a significant impact on turnout in the ward.
John Rodgers, an election official also volunteering at the clubhouse, said as a retired member of the military, he knew most soldiers don’t vote in local elections.
“A lot of the military is in the field,” he said. “Sometimes they are gone and don’t get very involved with the schools.”
Loecker said that while it was slow in the morning, more voters might be inclined to stop by on their way home from work, but only time would tell.
At First Lutheran Church, Ward 3-2 voting location, Supervising Judge Chuck Tannehill said he had seen only 22 voters in by 9:30 a.m.
Tannehill said he was not as surprised at the low number of voters but still had expected a larger turnout. He said the number of people who voted early was up in comparison to previous city elections, and that may have affected poll attendance on Tuesday.
In the last city election in 2011, the number of advance votes was1,300 — 89 votes less than advance ballots for this year’s election. In 2009’s city election, advance voting was even lower at 1,077.
Tannehill said he was also surprised at the low turnout because the amount of money city commission candidates spent on this election was higher than in previous city elections — although he said money did not necessarily mean more voters would turn out.
In 2011, the average amount spent on campaigns for the five candidates was $7,172. This year, city commission candidates (not including Daniel Hogan, who reported spending no money on his campaign) spent an average of $7,798.
Both voters and volunteers agreed this election was important, even if voter turnout was slow in the morning.
Douglas Dow of Manhattan said he decided to stop by the polls on his way to work this morning. While he said had not been following the candidates over the past few weeks, he did brush up on his options before coming to the polls.
“It is pretty easy to figure out where the candidates stand,” he said. “I think that it’s important to be involved at the local level because it can have more of an impact on your daily life.”
While voters slowly trickled in at the polls, there was no shortage of volunteers. Loecker said he has been volunteering to help with elections for the last eight years. Though he said most election volunteers are retired people, one Manhattan High School student was volunteering at the clubhouse on Tuesday.
Derek Wood, a sophomore, said he signed up to volunteer during the fall and had forgotten about it until Monday when he was asked to help at the polls. He said he is working toward earning a scholarship that has a community service requirement. After today, he said he will have fulfilled his needed hours, but he said that won’t stop him from continuing to volunteer in the community.