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Add rain to apathy and turnout drops

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Voter turnout for runoff elections rarely matches that of general elections. But hold a runoff on a rainy Thursday, and interest can drop to an embarrassing level.

Take this week's contests in Hillsborough County.

In one vote, only eight people cast ballots. The issue was whether to raise the maximum annual assessment for the Carrollwood South Special Dependent Tax District. Five residents said yes. Three said no.

The 71 other registered voters in the small district decided to stay home Thursday, making for 9.8 percent turnout.

That was not much shy of the countywide 11.63 percent turnout, said Supervisor of Elections Robin Krivanek. But she didn't blame it all on the non-Tuesday schedule.

"The last time we had a Thursday runoff, turnout was 28 percent," Krivanek said. "I think it's more a question of what's on the ballot.

"You always wish people would take some of these local races more seriously, but they don't."

In the two countywide races, roughly 35,000 people went to the polls. In School Board District 5, Doris Ross Reddick beat Thomas Scott, 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent.

The District 7 School Board contest generated 33,017 votes, 56.2 percent of them for Carol Kurdell, and 43.8 percent for Helen LaCount.

A bond issue to build and improve parks in unincorporated Hillsborough drew almost 20,000 voters, and was passed by the narrowest margin of the day, 50.8 percent to 49.3 percent.

The largest victory was that of James Doyle over Bob Lester in the Democratic runoff for County Commission District 2. Doyle grabbed 70 percent of the 5,485 votes cast.

On the Republican contest for the same seat, Jim Norman beat Gordon Davis 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent, with 3,412 votes cast.

For County Commission District 4, Lydia Miller got 59.5 percent of the 5,187 votes, defeating fellow Republican John Ryals.

Hillsborough voters in state Senate District 21 joined voters from three other counties in the newly created district to elect state Rep. Jim Hargrett. Hillsborough voters favored Hargrett 61.7 percent to 38.3 percent over Tampa lawyer Warren Dawson.

And in state House District 61, nearly 5,400 voters from parts of Lutz, Northdale and Plant City favored Dan Dwyer over fellow Democrat Jackie Clarke 60.7 percent to 39.3 percent.

Thursday's low interest was no surprise to elections officials, who already were setting sights on the Nov. 3 general election.

"It's going to be a terrifically lengthy ballot," Krivanek said. "We're already thinking of ways to reduce the waits at the polls."

Said Krivanek, "I'm expecting 75 to 80 percent (turnout). I'm encouraged we'll be closer to 80 because of the presidential race, and the fact both parties think they have a good chance."