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April 6, 2013

Despite big campaign spending, city elections suffer low turnout

NORMAN — Despite the expenditure of well over $200,000 on city election campaigns, the voter turnout for the April 2 city vote was lower than candidates had hoped.

Less than 18 percent of eligible, registered voters cast ballots in the Norman mayor’s race this week, according to analysis by the Cleveland County Election Board. Numbers also indicate that the highest voter turnout and strongest support for mayoral challenger Tom Sherman came from Ward 3.

The Cleveland County Election Board certified the election at 5 p.m. Friday. A dozen additional provisional ballots were accepted but did not affect the outcome of any of the races, Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams said. Those ballots are not included in the following analysis of the election.

Williams said there were 62,961 eligible voters in the Norman mayoral race. Of those, 10,908 — 17.33 percent — voted. Slightly fewer voters cast ballots in the hotel/motel tax proposition.

While the tax proposition carried with a high margin, winning with 8,397 “yes” votes to 2,462 against, the total 10,859 votes cast is even lower than the number who voted for mayor.

The three-way mayoral race was dominated by incumbent Cindy Rosenthal who garnered 5,898 votes with challengers Tom Sherman, 4,050 votes, and David Kempf 928 votes far enough behind to avoid a runoff.

Avoiding that runoff saved the city a nice chunk of change.

“Each citywide election costs us between $26,000 and $30,000,” said Norman City Clerk Brenda Hall. “The only variable is the ballot printing cost.”

In addition to ballots there are fees involved with each election. Combining city elections with county, state, federal and other elections does help curb the amount each entity must pay.

In Ward 3, ineligible candidate Benjamin Carter garnered 335 votes. Incumbent Robert Castleberry won that race with 1,528 votes for a total of 1,863 votes cast.

The worst turnout was in precinct 13 with 38 out of 2,010 voters casting ballots in the mayoral race. That precinct may have a high percentage of student voters. The precinct supports Ward 7 and votes at the Cross Center’s main building on the OU campus at 1600 Jenkins Ave. In the Ward 7 city council race, only 35 votes were cast at precinct 13.

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