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Very Low Turnout In Cincinnati Mayoral Primary
CINCINNATI: (Jeff Hirsh) Cincinnatis mayoral primary turned out to be a record breaker, but not the kind of record most people would be proud of. Fewer than 5.7 per cent of the citys registered voters bothered to cast a ballot yesterday, in a race where the outcome was basically known in advance.
Former councilman John Cranley and Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls took the first two spots, advancing to the actual mayors race in November. Two lesser-known candidates, Jim Berns and Sandra Queen Noble, were eliminated. The city charter requires a September primary when there are more than two mayoral candidates.
What was surprising was Cranleys first-place margin of victory, 56 per cent to Qualls 37 per cent. But experts say with such a low turnout, November is up for grabs.
Prof. Mack Mariani teaches politics at Xavier University. Mariani says one of the things you can read is that no one has a tremendous advantage when it comes to organization. Neither of the organizations can be terribly pleased with the turnout they brought out.
Cranley carried 130 of the citys 175 precincts. Mariani says that should give the Qualls forces something to think about, tiny primary turnout or not. The Qualls campaign has been sort of the assumed incumbent in the race, the next choice for mayor. This means Qualls is going to have to adjust her strategy and maybe take on Cranley more directly than she wanted to.
The high cost ($430,000) and low turnout (11,455 voters) has some political insiders looking for ways to change the primary system.
One suggestion is to hold the primary in May, when there are other issues on the ballot. However, there would be a long time between that primary and the mayoral election in November. Another idea it to have no primary. All the mayoral candidates would run on Election Day in November, and if no one received more than 50 per cent of the vote, the top two would have a run-off soon after the election, when voters were still focused on the race.
As it is now, the only thing on the September ballot is the mayoral primary, but the Board of Elections has to staff each precinct as if it were a full-blown election with multiple races and issues.