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Voter turnout hits historic low

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14 percent of registered E'town voters take to the polls for wet/dry election

By Marty Finley

Tuesday’s vote in Elizabethtown nixed plans to expand alcohol further, but the voter pool that made the decision turned out to be one of the lowest in the county’s history for a special election.

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Of 19,428 registered voters in the city, only 2,773, or 14.27 percent, cast a ballot, said Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb.

“I’d say that for a wet/dry election, that’s the lowest we’ve ever had,” he said.

Tabb said he personally has worked 13 local option alcohol elections and never witnessed such small numbers. He expected a minimum of 20 percent to show up to the polls.

“I knew it would be low, but it was lower than I expected,” he said.

Voting was slow going for a handful of precinct officers by midday Tuesday, who said lines were short and participation was low compared to November’s presidential election.

The Freeman precinct at Lakeside Worship Center on Ring Road had recorded just a little more than 130 voters around noon.

“This is not like this precinct at all,” said Janet Woodrum, precinct judge.

Precinct clerk Susan Black said they usually have lines stretching outside and typically can see 700 voters by lunch as one of the larger precincts in the city.

Jacquie Benton cast a ballot in support of the expansion and said she felt it was her civic duty to vote.

“I support it because I think it’s an economic development thing,” she said.

Benton said access to liquor drink licenses may attract more interest to downtown, which would be an asset for the city.

Heather Harris brought her young son, Houston, to the polls and said her small children are one reason she voted against a broader expansion of alcohol laws.

“I voted no just because I don’t want to see the bars and everything in downtown,” she said. Harris said she has no problem with restaurants serving alcohol with limitations and believes those limitations need to stay in place.

“I just don’t want to see a good town head in that direction,” she said.

Susan Rosenblatt said she consistently votes in every election but nearly forgot about Tuesday’s vote until a friend reminded her.

Rosenblatt did not reveal her vote and said she was more interested in the voting process than the particular issue.

“I don’t have a special preference either way,” she said. “I’m just out doing my duty.”

Across town, the Elizabethtown West precinct at Pritchard Community Center was seeing similar low numbers, collecting around 165 votes by lunch. Precinct sheriff Jim Newton said more than 1,100 people cast votes at the precinct in November.

“I don’t think we’re going to reach that limit this time,” precinct clerk Dorothy Brothers said.

Precinct judge Marge Riley felt most people did not make the alcohol vote a high priority, which contributed to the lower numbers.

“This is just not as important to people (as the presidential election), but it should be,” Riley said. “It shouldn’t make a difference.”

Mary Cunningham said she cast a supporting vote in the hope that it could help attract new businesses.

“I would hope that it would bring business here to downtown,” she said.

Doris Harlow, meanwhile, said last year’s expansion of alcohol was sufficient and she does not desire any more liquor relaxation in the city, which is what spurred her vote against the proposal.

“I don’t believe in drinking anyway,” she said.

Tabb said the election ran smoothly with no machine malfunctions reported. Some voters had trouble finding precincts in the early morning hours because the locations were adjusted with school in session.

For example, Tabb said some voters at the Van Meter precinct at Central Hardin High School looked for their polling place inside the gymnasium, but the precinct was moved to the freshman wing because the gym was off limits.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.