Updated: Potomac Precincts Report Low Turnout on Primary Day
Fewer voters are heading to the polls today than expected, according to campaigners and poll officials.
Updated, 7 p.m.: Voter turnout stayed fairly low throughout the day in Potomac, Md.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Precinct 04-12 located at Winston Churchill High School had one of Potomac’s highest head counts, with 313 Democrats reporting to vote of the 1733 registered, and 108 Republicans checking in of the 717 registered. Precincts located at Cabin John Middle School, Potomac Elementary School, the Potomac Community Center and Bells Mill Elementary saw similarly low turnouts, with just over 10 percent of all registered voters for each precinct showing up to vote.
While many precinct party chairs were disappointed with the low numbers one campaigner saw it as a boon.
"I think a low turnout will probably help Rob [Garagiola]," said democratic campaigner and former Maryland State Senator Laurence Levitan. "Generally unions turnout votes; Chamber of Commerce -- they don't turnout votes."
The nearly guaranteed presences of union voters at polls combined with generally low numbers means the votes could swing for Garagiola, Levitan said.
Democratic precinct chairs at the Potomac Community Center said they were also certain Garagiola would be the favored 6th District contender.
“A lot of people know Rob because he’s been the state senator in this district for 10 years,” said Carla Satinsky, vice chair of the Community Center precinct. “[John] Delaney, on the other hand, doesn’t live in the district.”
Original story, 12 p.m. (updated 4 p.m.): Potomac precincts are reporting a low voter turnout Tuesday morning, despite dedicated campaign visits from party members and 6th District hopeful John Delaney.
“Turn out is slow,” said Merry Eisner, Democratic precinct chair for the Bells Mill location. “I’ve worked this poll for candidates in the past and I’m surprised by how slow it is given that it’s a presidential primary.”
Eisner’s Republican counterpart at Bells Mill, Bill Richbourg of Potomac, agreed.
“I think it’s been very light. Very few Republicans have come in,” Richbourg said.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections predicted a lower turnout for the primary election earlier this week, given the county's political leanings. Nearly two-thirds of Montgomery County voters affiliate with the Democratic Party, while today’s primary is primarily Republican, according to Marjorie Roher of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
“Voter turnout for primaries is usually around 20 percent,” said board member Nahid Khozeimeh. “It’s not going to be heavy today, but November will.”
Despite some low expectations for turnout, 6th District hopeful and Potomac resident John Delaney hit the polls for some last minute campaigning early in the morning.
“I’m feeling very good,” Delaney said. “Our message has been well received. I feel like we have good momentum going into Election Day."
Four-year Potomac resident Melissa Seldin and her 8-year-old headed to the Churchill precincts early Tuesday to vote for Delaney. The two were most interested in education issues and the economy, Seldin said.
“We felt like [Delaney] would be a little more independent,” she said.
Wilson Gunn of Potomac went to the polls looking for someone who would vote similarly to his former representative U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, he said.
“I’d like to see universal health care and a Congress that works together instead of just bickers,” Gunn said.
Fred Evans, running for the Montgomery County Board of Education District 2 seat, was out campaigning for most of the day as well. Evans said he visited between 20 and 25 precincts as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, but that not many voters were interested in talking.
"When voters come in now they seem to have their mind made up, and they don't want to sit and talk," Evans said.
Still, one voter appreciated the campaign visit and said that it swayed his vote.
Richard Saltzman, a 15-year resident of Potomac and a native of Pittsburgh, PA, appreciated the personal contact, saying it reminded him of home.
"I've never seen a candidate out here. No candidates came to my door," Saltzman said, adding that he remembered shaking hands with many candidates during election season in Pittsburgh.
After leaving the polls, Saltzman approached Evans, shook his hand, and said, "I voted for you, one -- because you're from Pittsburgh, and two -- because you're here."