Stateline Story

Election Campaigns Enter 'Uncharted Waters'

  • September 18, 2001
  • By Daniel Seligson

Patriotism, not politics, has been on the minds of many since terrorist attacks last Tuesday. Now a week past, however, elections and campaigns are resuming, entering what both election officials and candidates have called "uncharted waters."

Voters in some cities in New Hampshire, Kentucky and Washington State returned to the polls Tuesday (9/18), amidst questions by election officials about whether turnout will be record-breaking in a show of patriotism or depressed by national events.

As the final results came in, states saw both.

When polls opened in Manchester, New Hampshire for a primary for most city offices, Leo Bernier, city clerk, described turnout as "heavier than usual for this type of election." By the end of the day, however, officials reported a 35.5 pecent turnout, lower than estimates but higher than the 30 percent who turned out to vote in 1999.

Kentucky saw a patriotic bump in the number of voters at the polls in a special election for a state senate seat, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Officials reported a 23 percent turnout, a larger-than-usual crowd for that type of election.

In Washington State, where voters in Seattle and other Puget Sound-area cities voted in primaries, election officials received a smattering of absentee ballots, indicating a light turnout.

"It appears to be so far that it is somewhat light compared to a typical year," said Carlos Webb, election supervisor for Snohomish County.

Julie Anne Kempf, election supervisor for King County, visited poll sites and found turnout was "exactly what we would expect for a local primary."

"I didn't know what to expect, but from the people I've talked to, it's the people who would have voted anyway. But they said with what's happened recently, it's much more meaningful to vote," Kempf said. The election unseated Seattle Mayor Paul Schell.

Campaigns have faced equal uncertainty wondering when the public could be receptive to a resumption. In Virginia, Republican Mark Earley suspended his campaign for a week following the attacks, resuming television advertisements on Tuesday (9/18).

"We are now in uncharted waters," Earley said in a statement. "I want my campaign's ship to sail through these uncharted waters with a principled rudder. I did suspend my public campaign...yet to continue to suspend the campaign would thwart the process of democracy that built this nation and kept her free."

New York City voters, who started voting last Tuesday, had their elections re-scheduled for next week (9/25). A bill passed hurriedly by the state legislature Monday will allow no-excuse absentee voting in the city as many polling places in south Manhattan were destroyed or damaged by the terrorist attack.