Salisbury’s city election turnout just 11.67 percent

Fewer than 12 percent of Salisbury’s 1,444 voters went to the polls Nov. 3, inviting opinions about why turnout was so low, and suggestions to boost it.

On election night, the percentage was reported as 10.73 percent. B Tuesday, however, Anthony Gutierrez, director of the county Board of Elections, said the unofficial total was 11.67 percent, “with more canvasses to go this week.”

Results will be certified Friday.

By comparison, in 2013, turnout was 19.6 percent, with 2,775 of the 14,174 registered voters going to polls. In 2005, turnout was 17.5 percent, according to information provided by the board of elections.

This year, all polling locations were new, which could have caused a dip in voter activity.

Locations were: District 1, Fire Station 16 on Cypress Street; District 2, Fire Station 1 on Schumaker and Beaglin drives; District 3, Asbury United Methodist Church; District 4, Wicomico Presbyterian Church; and District 5, Oak Ridge Baptist Church, Tilghman Road.

Because only one candidate, Jake Day, ran for mayor, there was no competitive race, so residents might have felt there wasn’t enough to vote for.

Low turnout can also be attributed to the city moving its election dates three times in the last decade.

The real contest was in District 3, where incumbents Jack Heath and Tim Spies competed, and newcomer Kevin Lindsay tried to make an inroad.

Turnout in that district was the highest, at 20.17 percent. Heath won with 267 votes. Spies got 145 and Lindsay received 75.

Other totals were: District 1, 11.15; District 2, 7 percent; District 4, 13.5 percent; and District 5, 5.8 percent.

In District 5, incumbent City Councilwoman Laura Mitchell ran unopposed.

It’s been suggested turnout could be increased if the city election year was moved to the same as the national presidential election or the state and county race.

Outgoing Mayor Jim Ireton called turnout “very high in our established, single-family neighborhoods.”

“Johnson’s Lake, Camden, and Newtown had significant turnout, on some streets upward of 50 percent. Salisbury has low numbers because you add in places like Mill Pond, Runaway Bay and Parkside Apartments, which have high turnover in terms of rental units. This is not a bad thing, it’s just that many of those voters just don’t live there anymore. That was my experience in both the 2009 and 2013 elections. I registered voters for each presidential election, and when I went back to find them for the municipal election, many were already gone,” he said.

Councilwoman Shanie Shields, who represents District 1 but was defeated by newcomer April Jackson, attributed low turnout to the mayor running unopposed and location of polls.

She said some senior citizens were likely reluctant, or unable, to drive across town after dark to vote.

Gutierrez said his elections office doesn’t speculate on voter turnout.

“We put the election on and hope for 100 percent turnout, of course. We try to be prepared for all of the voters who do come out and encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote,” he said.

It can be difficult to find centrally located polling places that comply with the American Disabilities Act, he said. For state and federal elections, polls are in schools, but city elections use other locations, such as fire departments and churches.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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