By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Voter turnout for Tuesday's local elections remained low in most town council and mayors races.
In Front Royal, where nine people vied for three seats on the Town Council and two candidates sought the mayor's post, 1,335 voters cast ballots at the polls. The total equates to 15.50 percent of the town's 8,608 registered voters, according to the Warren County voter registrar's office.
Elections for each of Shenandoah County's six towns drew divergent participation from the registered voters.
Data from the Shenandoah County voter registrar's office show low turnout in most of the towns where races remained uncontested or ballots offered the same number of choices as seats up for election. But not all towns followed the same trend. Toms Brook voters had six candidates seeking the same number of seats on the town council.
- New Market has 1,203 registered voters and 300 people, or 24.93 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose a mayor from two candidates and among four candidates to fill three seats on Town Council.
- Mt. Jackson has 951 registered voters and 190 people, or 19.97 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among five candidates to fill three seats on town council.
- Toms Brook has 170 registered voters and 22 people, or 12.94 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among six candidates to fill six seats. Mayor Philip K. Fauber ran unopposed for re-election.
- Strasburg has 3,987 registered voters and 476 people, or 11.94 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among eight candidates to fill half the number of seats. Mayor Timothy F. Taylor ran unopposed.
- Woodstock has 3,043 registered voters and 144 people, or 4.73 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among three candidates to fill three seats.
- Edinburg has 649 registered voters and 27 people, or 4.16 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among three candidates to fill three seats.
The totals do not include the number of absentee or provisional ballots.
Election officials in Shenandoah County who canvassed ballots Wednesday noted that voters turned out in expected numbers.
"I think it was what was expected so, in that regard, it certainly was not a low turnout," said Joyce Gary, secretary for the Shenandoah County electoral board.
Election officials had expected a total turnout of 10-12 percent but had hoped that number might extend to 15 percent, Gary said. Data from the county registrar's office show the board made a good prediction -- the total turnout for Shenandoah was 11.58 percent.
"But that is still kind of low," Gary said.
The board member acknowledged that candidate choice likely played a role in increased voter turnout for a particular town's election. Gary noted Strasburg's turnout appeared higher likely because so many candidates sought election to few seats. However, the towns with uncontested races in their elections and thus low turnout offset the gains seen in the other contests.
Whether any of the towns would seek to move their elections to November remains unknown. Some localities such as Middletown and Stephens City consolidated their elections with those conducted in November in an effort to increase participation in the process as well as to save money.
Gary, on the board since March, said over the years the topic has come up for discussion on occasion.
"I don't know that it's making progress toward doing that or that it's been shot down already or anything but, yes, there's been talk about that," Gary said.
Towns which decide to change their elections from May to November must seek approval from the Virginia General Assembly.
"It's always out there especially in these economic times," Gary said. "Having elections is kind of expensive, as everything else is."