Vote sign

The vote sign signals voters inside to the Highland Presbyterian Church in New Castle's North Hill neighborhood. 

In the end, people voted.

With the races for county commissioner and mayor of New Castle highlighting Tuesday’s General Election, 39.01 percent of Lawrence County voters showed up at the polls to make their voice heard.

While the results won’t be made official until next week at the earliest, said Ed Allison, director of the Department of Voter Services, the 39.01 percent was surprising to Lawrence County Republican Committee chairman Gale Measel.

“We had good area results,” Measel said. “I was happy with it. I thought voter turnout was pretty good. It was more than you would expect.

“It is a little higher than I anticipated. I think it was up because I think there was some sincere interest, especially among the school board candidates, the city and county commissioners.”

Paul Stefano, chair of Lawrence County Dems, said he felt the turnout was strong.

“Anytime you have an election you want turnout to be high,” Stefano said. “This cycle of the election, it didn’t break our way. The turnout …. we would like to see it higher.

“The mayor and commissioner election year is always a big year,” Stefano said. “The uniqueness of home rule was probably a big factor (in voter turnout). I am not sure how often we have had those types of issues on the ballot on the mayor-commissioner years.”

In 2013, voter turnout was a scant 19.93 percent but rose to 72.50 percent in 2016, the year of a presidential election. In 2014, 39.71 percent voter turnout was recorded, which dipped to 37.86 in 2015. In 2017, 29.44 percent of voters took to the polls, and last year 59.38 percent voted.

Measel said part of the larger turnout was the city’s mayor and home rule votes.

“That, to me, is a huge upset, as far as traditional politics,” Measel said of Chris Frye being elected to become New Castle’s next mayor. “If you are Act 47, why would you keep putting the same leadership back in place? How can you afford to not take a chance?

“I expected 25 to 27 percent,” Measel said.

Stefano said he wished more Democrats were elected.

“I will be on council now, but I am leaving, he said of his council term that expires Dec. 31. “So I won’t be working with the incoming mayor or council.”

Stefano doesn’t think the race heating up in the final days brought more voters to the polls.

“I wonder if it is neither,” Stefano said. “In the end, you have to be registered to vote. Anything that happened last week can be a factor in turnout. It would be crazy to say it didn’t factor.

“I always think those last minute things wouldn’t cause dramatic turnout sways,” Stefano said. “We had judicial candidates on the ballot. That may have been driving turnout as well. This year is always going to be heated up because it was mayor-commissioner, at least in the city. I knew the mayor and commissioners would being out that energy level.”

baddleman@ncnewsonline.com

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