CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Despite earlier statements to the contrary, two Kanawha County officials now believe voter turnout will be lower than expected for the gubernatorial primary election on May 14.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and County Clerk Vera McCormick both had previously predicted turnout would be at least 20 percent, with Carper saying it could be as high as 25 percent.
Both have since revised their statements. Now, they think turnout will be below 20 percent.
"I'll know more when the early voting polls close on Wednesday," Carper said. "But it looks like to me that there is just a general lack of interest in the governor's race."
Fewer people are requesting absentee ballots. A total of 242 absentee ballots were issued to Kanawha County voters during last year's U.S. Senate primary. So far this year, only 185 absentee ballots have been requested.
Last year's primary was an average number for a primary election, McCormick said.
McCormick's office must receive requests for absentee ballots by the end of business hours today.
Carper pointed out that absentee voters are normally very dedicated to the process and typically cast their ballots no matter where they are.
"They're traditionally strong voters," he said.
McCormick also was surprised by the low turnout for early voting. She was optimistic during the first three days of early voting when 722 registered voters cast ballots.
However, she is no longer pleased with the numbers, she said.
"I'm kind of surprised by early voting," she said. "We're seeing smaller numbers than we thought," she said.
As of Friday afternoon, 1,905 registered voters cast ballots for a gubernatorial nominee. This includes 1,192 Democrats, 530 Republicans and 183 non-partisan ballots.
A total of 2,675 voters cast ballots early during the five-day early voting period for the Senate special primary in August, including 1,676 Democrats, 785 Republicans, one Mountain Party and 213 non-partisans.
Although early voting numbers are not has high as she would like, McCormick hopes that it will pick up during the last few days of early voting.
Saturday elections tend to have a lower-than-average turnout without all of the additional complications surrounding this special gubernatorial race, Carper said.
McCormick and Carper also are concerned that the timing of the end of the early voting period may also cause numbers to lag. Early voting for the gubernatorial primary election will come to an end Wednesday.
This is because the special gubernatorial primary election is being held Saturday and early voting must stop three days before Election Day, McCormick said. She is concerned that many voters will come in to cast their ballots after the early voting period ends.
Carper is concerned some will miss out on early voting because the period ends Wednesday. Early voting typically ends on a Saturday.