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ELECTION 2014: Voter turnout low so far in Special Election to fill House of Delegates seat

By David Kaplan, dkaplan@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jan 07 2014 11:24:14 AM EST
Updated On: Jan 07 2014 06:40:09 PM EST

Poll workers say cold weather has slowed turnout in the special election to fill Onzlee Ware's 11th District seat in the House of Delegates

ROANOKE, Va. -

Polls close at 7 p.m. in the special election to fill Onzlee Ware's 11th District seat in the House of Delegates.

It was a short campaign between Republican Octavia Johnson and Democrat Sam Rasoul.

Best we can tell there were no long lines, no malfunctioning machines, no issues whatsoever.

Mainly because, overall, not many people showed up.

"Slow. It's been kind of slow today," Gloria Jernigan said.

Jernigan has run things at the Westside Precinct for close to 40 years now.

She says low turnout at one of Roanoke's smallest precincts was expected for a Special Election.

But precinct leaders say they have no doubt, the cold kept people from polls.

"I think there would have been more people than what we have now. But I think the weather has a lot to do with it. A lot to do with it," said Jernigan.

When we caught up with both campaigns Monday, they knew turnout could be an issue and weather would be a factor.

"It's a huge concern and we just want safety for the voters," Octavia Johnson spokesperson Ryan Lambert said.

"We're offering rides to anyone that does need a ride, so we've got a list of those who may need it," said Sam Rasoul.

Stephen Niamke runs one of Roanoke's largest precincts at Peters Creek.

He too has done this for a long time and had his theories about how many people would show.

"My guess was 430, but I'm beginning to think that's a little high," Niamke said, "I mean, just because it's cold. I think some people who would normally come out if the weather was nice are choosing to stay home."

Turns out, Peters Creek had almost exactly 430, at 3 p.m.  Niamke's expectations were surpassed.

We're told a few retirement communities and church groups may have cancelled planned trips to the polls because of the cold.
    
"I thought a lot about that and I'm just hoping that maybe this afternoon, they'll turn out," said voter Barbara James.

James is a good example of what today is really about, despite the chill, she made her voice heard today.

"I never miss the opportunity to vote. Because people died for African-Americans to be able to vote and I just don't miss that opportunity, no matter what," James said.