Low voter turnout expected Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 17, 2001

There are 4,593 registered voters in the Mower County Fifth Commissioner District.

Saturday, March 17, 2001

There are 4,593 registered voters in the Mower County Fifth Commissioner District.

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How many of them will vote in Tuesday’s special election?

If the results of a special primary election held Feb. 27 are any indication, the answer is "not many."

Only 340 people voted a month ago, when five candidates vied for the right to advance to Tuesday’s special primary election. That’s 7.4 percent of the registered voters in the Fifth District.

Garry E. Ellingson was the top vote-getter with 107 votes. Richard "Dick" Chaffee finished second with 72 votes.

Ellingson and Chaffee will square-off in Tuesday’s election.

Donna Olson received 65 votes, according to the official canvass of the Feb. 27 totals.

Richard Lees received 54 and David T. Tschann, 40.

The Fifth Commissioner District is comprised of the city of Austin’s First Ward – Second Precinct and Second Ward – First Precinct.

The special primary election attracted 165 voters from the First Ward – Second Precinct. A total of 2,095 were registered plus three others on the special primary election day.

In the Second Ward – First Precinct, 175 people voted among the 2,495 registered.

Paper ballots will again be used Tuesday, when voters go to the polls at Southgate and Sumner elementary schools. Polls open 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

The Fifth Commissioner District seat on the county board was vacated, when Gary Nemitz was forced to resign in January due to health reasons. Nemitz, a former Austin City Council Member, who was elected to the county board in 1990, ended a distinguished career in public service with his resignation.

The salary for the county commissioner’s position is $20,000 per year, plus $40 per diem and mileage and other expense reimbursement.

Ellingson is a former long-time Mower County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy.

Chaffee is currently the At Large representative on the Austin City Council.

Donna Dahl, voter service chair-woman for the League of Minnesota Voters – Austin, is concerned with the apparent voter apathy.

"What amazes me," said Dahl, "you have all this hue and cry over the job they’re doing, but you don’t have people voting to make a change."

According to Dahl, after the special primary election a month ago, "People said ‘We didn’t know where to vote’ and other people, who didn’t live in the Fifth District, tried to vote."

With the district comprised entirely of two voting precincts in two Austin city wards, that means only two possible places to vote: Southgate and Sumner schools.

Also, Dahl is surprised after last November’s huge turnout in the Presidential election and their historic Florida recount problems, more civic-minded citizens aren’t voting.

She also tells a story, being retold in Austin, that one of the candidates in the February special primary election said, "More people said they voted for me than the actual votes I got."

Chaffee and Ellingson are hoping the Fifth District voters practice what they preach Tuesday and vote.