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May 16 election sees just 14 percent voter turnout

Could voter turnout go any lower? Apparently so.

Last month’s May 16 elections reported a 14 percent voter turnout, with 954 ballots cast out of a total 6,688 registered voters. That is a 4 percent drop from a comparable election, May 2015, that reported an 18.1 turnout (1,620 votes cast out of 8,950 registered), and which – as of that time – was the lowest reported turnout in recent memory.

Large population precincts reported low turnouts. Grangeville 1-3 had a 6 percent turnout (87 of 1,442) and 4-5 had 10 percent (151 of 1,500); and Kooskia had 75 voters participate (7 percent of its 1,021 registered). Both Riggins (84 of 453) and White Bird (61 of 323) reported 19 percent turnouts, and Pollock had 54 of its 354 voters (15 percent) turnout. Slate Creek precincts 1 and 2 reported 42 percent (37 of 89) and 33 percent (30 of 90) turnouts, respectively.

“I do think voters are election-weary,” said Kathy Ackerman, Idaho County Clerk, with an election in March and one in May. As well, an election may be held in August; and races for city councils, cemetery and fire districts come up in November.

Voters may also be confused, she continued, with the proximity of these races as to whether they may have already cast ballots on these decisions. Or, they may have abstained due to unfamiliarity with the candidates or the taxing districts themselves.

“In the case of the hospital, it may be people don’t know the newcomers to the board,” Ackerman said, “or they may not necessarily understand how taxing districts work,” elaborating, for example, that they may perceive – erroneously – they fall under the authority of the Idaho County Board of Commissioners.

Taxing districts are a complicated system to understand as far as their areas of jurisdictions and operating rules, she said, “and it’s difficult for the average voter to understand. So, they focus on the bigger elections.”

Results for the Tuesday, May 16, election were canvassed by the Idaho County Commission last Monday, May 22. Final race numbers are as follows (winners in bold):

Syringa Hospital District

6-year position (two seats): Leta Strauss, 368; Jerry Zumalt, 583; Ben Paul, 266; Jo Hardy, 186; Twila Hornbeck, 171.

4-year position (two seats): Paula Calcaterra, 346; Jane H. Carlson, 535; Gunther Williams, 540.

2-year position (one seat): Chad Jungert, 314; Ted Sellitti, 139; James H. May, 335.

School Districts

Cottonwood 242, $350,000 levy: 269 yes, 112 no. Voter turnout: 28 percent.

Salmon River 243, $525,000 levy: 149 yes, 32 no. Voter turnout: 22 percent.

Kamiah 304, trustee zone 4: Sharlene Johnson, 46; Donald Ray Skinner Jr, 59. Voter turnout: 28 percent.

Highway Districts

Greencreek: subdistrict 1 (uncontested): Steven A. Sonnen, 89; subdistrict 2 (one seat): John Schumacher, 60; Justin L. Nuxoll, 54. Voter turnout: 67 percent.

Doumecq: subdistrict 1 (one seat): Richard C. Brust, 49; Dan Lynch, 13. Voter turnout: 41 percent.

Kidder Harris: subdistrict 1 (uncontested): Doug Ulmer, 108; subdistrict 2 (one seat): Vern Raff, 62; Richard Dale Whitcomb, 51. Voter turnout: 13 percent.


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