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Voter turnout slow but steady in Manchester primary

Union Leader Staff
September 19. 2017 11:41AM
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and challenger Joyce Craig run into each other at Ward 11 polls Tuesday morning. They wished each other good luck. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Voters steadily filed through polling stations across the city Tuesday while casting votes in the municipal primary.

City Clerk Matt Normand said early turnout was slow, which is common during the morning of a primary, but started to pick up in the afternoon and was expected to continue at a steady flow until the polls close at 7 p.m.

Normand said he hadn’t heard of any significant trouble in any of the city’s 12 wards or any reports of problems with the new voter registration requirements.

“It’s been pretty smooth so far,” he said. “We’re keeping fingers crossed and hope it stays that way.”

The polls opened at 6 a.m. and around 5,200 votes had been cast at the midway point, Normand said.

Mayor Ted Gatsas is seeking a fifth term and is one of four candidates in the mayoral primary, which also includes Democrat Joyce Craig, who lost to Gatsas by just 64 votes in 2015. Signs supporting both have been posted around the city for weeks as voters expect another rematch in November.

“I just wanted my man to get in,” Pauline Heald said after casting her vote at Webster Elementary School. “I vote every time. It’s important for everybody to do it.”

Heald’s ballot was one of 1,030 filed in Ward 1 by 2 p.m. Jim Townsend, the ward monitor, said the total may hit 2,000 before the day was over, which would be about average for a non-partisan primary.

“It’s been a very pleasant, even-paced voter turnout,” Townsend said. “There have been no real lines or congestion, but it’s been steady.”
Primary races exist for seats on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Wards 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12.

Races exist for seats on the school board in wards 6 and 12.

Turnout tends to be lower in the municipal primaries than in general election years. Two years ago, there were 12,290 ballots cast, the most votes in a city primary since 2001. In the previous primary, turnout dipped to 11.87 percent with 7,278 ballots from a total of 61,331 registered voters.

The city had 55,904 registered voters entering Tuesday.

Regular voters said they felt it was important to participate in the primaries like Tuesday’s and have an understanding of who holds local elected offices. Although they may not always like the final result, a few votes can make a difference.

“You do the best you can. Look what happened at the White House,” Susan Lazos said after voting at Ward 1.

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