State election workers are gearing up for a relatively high turnout for today's primary elections, possibly 30 percent or more of the total registered voters in the state.
That might not seem like much, but rarely do voters turn out in high numbers for a primary election, even in presidential election years. In 2004, the primary drew 24.7 percent of the total registered voters in the state.
This year, the Secretary of State's Office is expecting a strong turnout in both the primary election and the Nov. 4 general election.
Deputy Secretary of State Kevin Tyne said estimating voter turnout is an "inexact science." But he said early-voting results show voters will be more active this year.
"With the general election, with all the interest in the presidential election, Secretary Brewer is predicting record turnouts of as much as 80 percent"
"I think there's a lot of interest especially in the national conventions … a lot of things in the newspaper about initiatives, there's just been an opportunity to get people intrigued about the upcoming election," he said. "Certainly if we can get 30 percent in the primary and up to 80 percent we would be talking record-breaking for the general election, and that would be fantastic."
As of late morning, very few voters could be spotted at polling places across central Phoenix. In fact, some stations were completely empty for 15 minutes at a time.
Here are one reporter's notes after spending the morning at two churches and two schools set up to receive voters:
Time: 10:15 a.m. – Polling place: Bethune School at 1301 South 15th Avenue in Phoenix
Notes: The place looks deserted. For a moment, I thought it was the wrong address – except for the signs warning media to stay 75 yards away.
Time: 10:45 a.m. – Place: Thomas Edison School 804 North 18th Street in Phoenix.
Notes: Again, the place is empty, except here there are kids playing soccer. There's also a woman here handing out pamphlets in support of three candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission. She said it had been dead all morning.
Time: 11 a.m. – Place: Resurrection Lutheran Church at 2602 North 17th Street in Phoenix.
Notes: There's shade here, but still no people. Then I ran into David Ramos, 60, who lives in the neighborhood and has voted in every general and primary election for the past 40 years. He's an independent who still hadn't made up his mind on which presidential candidate he would vote for. When asked why he made time to vote, he said "There's a lot of little issues that need to be corrected." He didn't offer specifics and seemed to be someone who was into it for the process.
Time: 11:30 a.m. – Place: Valley Bible Church at 1801 East Osborne Road in Phoenix.
Notes: I spoke to Sandra Clark, 41, a big supporter of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "To be honest with you I wouldn't have come out to vote if he wasn't on the ballot," she said. "I wouldn't have come out to vote for any other person." She said it was the first time she's voted in an Arizona primary. She's lived here for three years, after moving to the Valley from Texas. She said she's of Hispanic descent: "If Joe were to pull me over, I would not be offended."
I also ran into Roger Pongratz, a candidate for justice of the peace. He said he'd gone to eight polling places so far today. He voted at 6:30 a.m. and he was the second person at his polling place. When he went to see what was going on at a polling place at a church on Camelback, he noticed "the precinct worker was out begging people to vote," he said. Asked why so few people were voting, he said: "There's not a lot of really contested stuff, so why would people come out and vote in the primary?"
-The Arizona Capitol Times will provide full coverage of tonight's primary election at www.azcapitoltimes.com. For up-to-the-minute results and analysis on key races, check back throughout the evening.