In the poorest turnout in 16 years, 36,196 voters went to the polls in Jefferson County for the 2012 election, according to Republican Election Commissioner Jerry O. Eaton. Those voters represent a mere 64 percent of the electorate.
It is a decrease of 234 from 2008. In 2004, more than 39,000 residents voted, while 36,859 voted in 2000.
This year yielded the lowest turnout of voters since at least 1996, according to Mr. Eaton.
In local races, the contest for trustee of the village of Cape Vincent was tight. With two positions open, the second- and third-place candidates were separated by only one vote before the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots. Incumbent Jerry D. Golden was the top vote-getter after absentee ballots were counted, while Jeffrey Call ended up defeating incumbent Douglas J. Putnam for the second position.
Village elections in Evans Mills were recently moved from March to November. Because of the move, incumbents Mark A. Leroux and Sandra J. Veivia did not file the nominating petitions required for ballot access for a general election, Mr. Eaton said.
Thus it turned into a write-in campaign, he said.
Gregory Smith and Brian W. Flack won the two positions with 23 and 22 write-in votes, respectively. Ms. Veivia came in third with 17 votes. Mr. Leroux did not receive any votes.
With the advent of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, punch card and lever voting machines began to be phased out across the country. While villages may choose to run their local elections independently of the county board of elections, by 2013 they no longer will be able to use lever voting machines.
Using paper ballots without the accompanying optical scanner technology can compromise the validity of an election and result in contentious legal action.
Because of the implications of this impending shift, the election commissioners wrote a letter to villages in Jefferson County encouraging them to move their elections under the jurisdiction of the county board.
In the letter, dated April 12, 2011, Mr. Eaton, along with then-Democratic Commissioner Sean M. Hennessy, wrote, First, elections have become vastly more expensive and moving your election to November would be a cost saving measure in very tight fiscal times. Second, VillageClerks have been calling our office because each year they struggle to understand their legal responsibilities when it comes to managing elections. Finally, it simply makes sense to have voters going to the polls to vote on village offices when they are voting for all other public offices.
These issues led Evans Mills, along with several other villages in Jefferson County, to move local elections from March to November.
A write-in contest also determined the race for Town Council member in Lorraine. Leo D. Berry received 108 votes, upsetting Michael G. Bellinger, who had been appointed to the position earlier in the year. Mr. Bellinger received 44 votes.
In the village of Deferiet, a write-in campaign secured victory for former Mayor John M. Pais, ousting incumbent Robert J. Foster. Mr. Pais received 56 votes to Mr. Fosters 31. A write-in candidate also played a role in a surprise defeat of the incumbents for the two open village trustee seats. The seats were won by Janet M. Zando and write-in candidate Timothy J. Irey, with 66 and 57 votes, respectively. Incumbents William S. Littlefield, who received 34 votes, and Carlton H. Shettleton, who received 26, were sent packing.
Out of the 36,196 ballots cast, only 35,000 went toward the hotly contested race for the 21st Congressional District; 1,195 voters did not register a vote for a congressional representative. One additional vote was voided because the individual wrote in a candidates name that already was listed on the ballot, which is not allowed.
Republican Matthew A. Doheny carried the county with an official total of 17,815 votes to Democratic Rep. William L. Owenss 16,755. Green Party candidate Donald L. Hassig received 418 votes.
Mr. Doheny also led vote totals in Jefferson County on election night, though he trailed Mr. Owens by 4,713 votes districtwide. Official results are expected to trend along with the election night outcome, securing the congressional seat for Mr. Owens.