Sherman Howell and County Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty

Sherman Howell and County Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty stand outside of Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia on Tuesday morning holding campaign signs for school board candidates, Howell in support of Janet Siddiqui and Ann De Lacy and Sigaty for Ellen Flynn Giles. (Photo by David Greisman / April 3, 2012)

Carol Stallings and Judy Chioli pushed open the doors to Swansfield Elementary School to see what awaited them on this primary election day.

Not a soul.

"Usually by 7 o'clock there are people lined up," said Stallings, a chief election judge at this Columbia voting precinct. "There was nobody."

That appeared to be the theme at many voting locations throughout the day.


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At Harper's Choice Middle School, a slow stream of voters trickled in throughout the day. The precinct, which has about 1,700 eligible voters, according to chief election judge Rhoda Toback, saw 1 percent turnout around 11 a.m. and 2 percent turnout around 1:30 p.m. A small afternoon "rush" brought the turnout to 5 percent, or about 100 people, by 2:45 p.m.

"People are not coming out in this district because it's a heavily Democratic district," Toback said.

However, turnout was also light in the western part of Howard County, where the majority of voters are Republican. Between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., about a dozen people entered Glenelg High School and came out wearing "I voted" stickers.

One of them was Kim Wissman, a Republican, who said voting was "quick and easy." Wissman she came out because she felt it was her duty to vote, but she said she was not surprised by the low turnout "just because of the tone of the (presidential) election this time around.

"It's been a very frustrating election," Wissman said. "I'm tired of hearing the candidates take digs at each other ... It's been a very divided party."

One of the things that frustrated Wissman this election season was all the robo calls she has received. She said she has received about three to four robo calls a day, from both national and local campaigns or groups.

"Those calls did not help," said Wissman, who declined to say who she voted for. "They actually are a detriment."

One of the interesting things about this election, Toback pointed out, is the lack of electioneering that has taken place outside of polling places. She said a volunteer for circuit court judge candidate Clarke Ahlers' campaign was the only person who had been outside of Harper's Choice Middle most of the day.

John Mattingly, another Ahlers volunteer, was the only person electioneering outside of Glenelg High School.

Around 1:30 p.m., as a reporter drove by River Hill High School, no campaign volunteers were outside the school's two polling locations. Next door, at Clarksville elementary, again the only presence was from Ahlers' volunteers.

Jill Robinson, who voted at Bryant Woods Elementary Tuesday morning, also felt something was missing as she left the school, walking by numerous signs for candidates.

"First time I've voted and there are no electioneers," she said. That was also the case at Wilde Lake High School.

At Swansfield, however, there were four volunteers for the school board and court races outside the polling location in the early morning — sometimes were more people holding signs outside than filling out ballots inside.

'Pretty slow day'

Howard County Board of Elections member Donna Rice was responsible for visiting 12 voting sites throughout the county and making sure everything was going smoothly. Around 3 p.m., she checked in on Harper's Choice Middle School and said she had three more sites left to visit.

"Everybody seems to be having a pretty slow day, and it's been relatively orderly," she said.