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Decision 2013: Turnout low for special election

By Joe Burns
Published On: May 20 2013 09:34:19 PM CDT

It's election eve and voter turnout in Deschutes County is expected to be low but with money measures this time around hear how will it effect the races.

BEND, Ore. -

Tuesday is Election Day, and as of Monday night, more than 70 percent of voters still hadn't voted in Deschutes County, with similar numbers elsewhere in Central Oregon.

So what will the low turnout mean for the money measures facing Central voters?

Unless it's a presidential primary year, May special Elections like Tuesday's usually bring low turnouts of the mail-in ballots.

Even in presidential primary years, the Oregon primary has usually become irrelevant by the time the votes get counted.

But even with a low voter turnout, supporters of the two big money measures in Deschutes County are optimistic of success.

"We still have time for people to get their ballots into our office to be counted," Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship said Monday.

You would think Election Eve means the county clerk's office is getting ready for a big late surge of ballots.

"Two years ago, we were just under 30 percent, so we are hoping this year that maybe we will get over 30 percent," Blankenship said.

Fortunately for the backers of those requests, this isn't a double majority election., requiring 50 percent turnout for a valid count. Voters have decided that should be the case in elections other than those held in May and November .

"For this election, those that participate make the decision," Blankenship said. "So if you don't vote, that is not adding to the double majority requirement. So those that participate are the ones who make the decision."

"Hopefully, that is a little more motivation for those that say they don't want it (a measure) to pass to get their ballot in and vote appropriately." she added.

Andy High, co-chairman of the Bend-La Pine Schools' bond campaign, said Monday, "The committee is feeling very strong. We knew it would be a lower turnout this May."

And measure supporters facing that low turnout planned accordingly.

"We look at likely voters," High said. "We go out and target likely voters, and look for parents, maybe for those schools that are definitely overcrowded or at capacity. So that way, they can see the benefits of us building a new school, and how the tax rate will remain unchanged to what they are currently paying."

Bend-La Pine Schools are asking voters to approve a $98 million bond measure to build two new schools and make more than 140 upgrades at existing ones.

It's not just a school bond measure facing Bend-area voters, but a Deschutes County 911 tax levy as well.

"We are encouraged by the voter turnout," said 911 Director Rob Poirier. "We know the voters are generally very supportive of public safety. I'm trying to be optimistic."

The Deschutes County  911 District is asking voters to approve a local option levy that would slightly reduce the current tax rate and still maintain current operations, without having to make any cuts.

Poirier points to the numbers last year, when there were national and statewide issues on the ballot to lure voters, but a proposed new 911 district was defeated.

"To think that we are looking to maybe match that same voter turnout on what are going to be local issues and candidates only is extremely encouraging," Poirier said.

Others with money measures on their ballot include Crook County and Culver schools and the Madras Aquatic Center, not to mention a host of school and park board races -- some contested, others not.

You must have your ballots turned in by 8 p.m. Tuesday night -- and remember don't mail your ballot. You have to turn them in at the drop boxes.

A list of the locations and hours are in the voters pamphlet and on the secretary of state's website at www.sos.state.or.us/dropbox

Blankenship says she is still seeing people turning in their ballots without a signature. She wants to remind you to sign them so your vote can be counted.

We'll have election results at KTVZ.COM and on NewsChannel 21 Tuesday night.

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