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Low Turnout In D.C. Primary Attributed To Rain, Disinterest

This story was written by Will Koper, The Eagle
Intermittent rain and uncontested races resulted in a low turnout citywide as former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry won the Democratic Party's re-nomination for his Ward Eight city council seat with almost 80 percent of the vote.

A large number of write-in votes appeared on city ballots, muddying the results of the Republican at-large council seat in which challenger Patrick Mara claimed victory over five-term incumbent Carol Schwartz.

American U. College Democrats President Luke Falcon Sapp said he did not know the primary election happened.

"Because it's solidly Democratic and because it's right next to a battleground state [Virginia], it tends to get overlooked, " he said.

Falcon Sapp said he will vote in the upcoming presidential election by absentee ballot in his home state of Florida, where his vote is much more likely to influence the outcome.

Richard Benedetto, a professor in the School of Communication and the School of Public Affairs and a former political correspondent for USA Today, said local politics doesn't have much of an effect on students.

"The vast majority of AU students are not D.C. taxpayers and do not send their children to D.C. public schools," he said.

Most students come to AU for national politics, rather than local politics, said Kristen Luppino, a junior in SPA.

"That stuff doesn't affect us very much," she said.

Luppino said she thought the university could do more to help students get involved.

"It could be done better," she said.

The School of Public Affairs lists only one course in localized politics, called "Metropolitan Politics," and nothing that specifically focuses on D.C.

James Thurber, director of the Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies, said the Campaign Management Institute used D.C. elections as case studies in the past.

"I've always lived in D.C. and I've always cared," he said.

AU students are not involved in local politics, but more involved in national races, Thurber said.

The unofficial results of the D.C. primaries indicated a voter turnout of approximately 12 percent. In precinct 30, located in Tenleytown, poll worker Elinor Stillman said she had received about 131 Democratic ballots and 69 Republicans as of 7 p.m. She had not distributed any ballots for the D.C. Statehood Green party.

"I haven't even opened the shrink wrap," she said.

Primary turnout is generally low, and it does not necessarily signify voter alienation, Benedetto said.

"This year saw higher turnouts in the Democratic presidential primaries," he said. "But still, no state except New Hampshire came close to 50 percent turnout. Most were in the high teens or 20s."