by nathan oster
Sixty-five percent of Big Horn County’s registered voters cast ballots in the Aug. 19 primary election.
While that percentage tops the statewide turnout — set at 46 percent by Secretary of State Max Maxfield — and the 59 percent turnout for the 2012 primary, it lags behind the last two primaries in which county department heads and the state’s top five elected officials appeared on the ballot.
In 2006, turnout was 71 percent.
In 2010, it was 72 percent.
The 65-percent turnout this year is a reflection of numbers provided this week by the Big Horn County Clerk’s Office. The total does not include new voters who registered on Election Day.
Countywide, the 5,548 registered voters cast 3,628 ballots.
The county continues to see an increase in absentee ballots. Annette Dillon, the deputy elections clerk, said the county clerk’s office mailed out 599 absentee ballots and that 559 of those were returned.
In the 2012 primary, the one county post that appeared on the ballot was a single seat on the commission. This year all the department heads were up for re-election. Most ran unopposed. In the GOP races that were contested, Kim Adams topped incumbent Michelle Burns for county attorney, Serena Lipp won a four-way race for clerk of the district court and Felix Carrizales and John Hyde outpolled Keith Grant to be the Republican nominees for two seats on the commission.
With 73 percent of its registered voters (44 out of 60) going to the polls, Emblem finished with the highest voter turnout in last week’s primary. Other precincts that topped the 70-percent mark included Greybull at 71 percent (811 out of 1138), Shell at 70 percent (199 of 284) and Basin at 70 percent (572 out of 808).
Frannie and Deaver had the lowest turnouts, each coming in at 53 percent. In Deaver, 58 of 108 cast ballots. In Deaver it was 54 out of 101.
Statewide numbers were lower, according to a release from the office of Secretary of State Max Maxfield.
“Based on unofficial results from the county clerks, voter turnout for the primary election was 46 percent of those who are registered to vote,” said Maxfield.
According to State Election Director Peggy Nighswonger, that percentage is comparable to turnout for the primary elections in 2010 and 2006 when the five state elected officials were on the ballot. Voter turnout in the 2010 primary was 51 percent and 46 percent in the 2006 primary.
“Turnout is generally much higher for the general election,” Nighswonger explained. “So if history repeats itself, we’ll likely see a lot more people at the polls on Nov. 4.”