Chesco officials say turnout for primary was less than 15%

Posted: May 17, 2001

WEST CHESTER — Less than 15 percent of registered voters turned out for Tuesday's primary election in Chester County, in what some close to the election called one of the lowest turnouts in memory.

"It seemed to be a very light turnout," Sally Weil, president of the county's League of Women Voters, said yesterday. "But there were a lot more write-ins than we have seen in a long time."

Linda Cummings, director of county Voter Services, said on Tuesday that a turnout of 15 to 20 percent was average for primary elections. Initial numbers suggested that just more than 13 percent of the county's registered voters turned out Tuesday.

Gail Fitzgerald of Voter Services said it would almost two weeks before official results would be released. She said tabulations would begin on Friday.

Weil, who helped process ballots, said she suspected the low turnout was related to the number of uncontested county races. The most turbulent municipal race - for the district justice in the Caln/East Brandywine area - resulted in a draw, for now. The two candidates, James Charley, a supervisor in East Brandywine, and incumbent Art Brown, both cross-filed on Republican and Democratic ballots. Charley won the GOP primary with just more than half the vote. At the Democratic polls, Brown won by a 3-1 ratio.

The two will face a second round in the general election in November.

In the race for supervisor in Uwchlan, Fred Gaines comfortably defeated current School Board President C. Ward Braceland, a 14-year veteran, in the GOP polls.

Two seats were open on Thornbury's Board of Supervisors. In the first race, John Rendemonti and Michael Aiello defeated Supervisors Ron Miller and Michael Sweeney. Incumbent Robert Eichman defeated Maryann Santitoro for the second seat, a two-year unexpired term.

In the county's school board primaries, for which candidates also are allowed to cross-file, voters reaffirmed a number of incumbents.

One exception was in the Downingtown Area School District, where 10-year board member Jim Wychgel was defeated at the Republican and Democratic polls by challenger Alice W. Johnson, who served on the board in the early 1990s. In the three other races for seats on the Downingtown board, incumbents Cynthia Hallman, Diane Pribanic and James Watson ran unopposed.

Wychgel said yesterday he was as disappointed by the low voter turnout as by the loss.

"There was a very low vote count," he said. "I got very good support from the people who have been involved, but we can't get people to come out to board meetings and we can't get people out to the polls. It's disappointing."

In West Chester, four candidates from each party will appear on November's ballot to fill one seat.

Debra Arvanites, the incumbent board president, and Gail Tomassini narrowly split wins between the two parties on Tuesday. Arvanites edged Tomassini in the Democratic primary by fewer than 20 votes, and Tomassini collected the most votes on the GOP side. Arvanites sought, but did not receive, GOP party endorsement earlier in the year.

The two, along with June Cardosi and Rogers Vaughn, won enough GOP votes to appear on November's general-election ballot. Vaughn and an unnamed write-in candidate were the other two winners for the Democrats. The name of the write-in candidate will be made available at a later date, election officials said.

Coatesville had three school board seats open Tuesday. Bill Lowe and Eric Brown, the incumbent vice president, ran unopposed in their races and easily won both party primaries. In the battle for the third seat, Daniel Wagner and Byron Shearer won the Republican primary, while Wagner and Brenda Treadwell were winners for the Democrats.

Brian Woodward's e-mail address is bwoodward@phillynews.com.

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