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Cedar Rapids Council Runoff Vote Light as Expected

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Turnout for the Cedar Rapids City Council runoff election appears to be as light as predicted by the Linn County Auditor.

As of midafternoon, 4,902 of 90,267 total voters in the city had either cast a ballot in person or voted absentee earlier. That's a turnout rate of 5.43 percent. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said the city election last month drew a turnout of just under 23 percent.

He was anticipating fewer than 10 percent of voters to pick two council members in the runoff race made necessary when no candidate drew 25 percent of the total on election night.

Incumbent council member Chuck Swore was the leading voter getter on November 5 with 24.26 percent of the total. Ralph Russell was second with 19.36 percent. Because no one got the minimum percentage, candidates Susie Weinacht and Carletta Knox-Seymour were added back on the ballot for the runoff election.

Auditor Miller said no other city in Linn County requires a runoff and in those cases, the top vote-getters win the contest without a minimum percentage. Miller said Cedar Rapids could have saved the approximate $60,000 cost of an election by eliminating the need for a runoff race.

Prior to a change in city government in 2005, the city of Cedar Rapids conducted a primary election whenever there were extra candidates in a race. A new charter commission looked at the city rules in 2011 but made no changes to election procedure.

Auditor Miller said he did consider using the "vote center" procedure tried last summer in school board elections. That consolidated 44 precincts in Cedar Rapids to five locations for voting as a way to save costs. Miller said using vote centers for the runoff council elections might have cut the cost in half, but he said there was no time to switch from regular voting precincts to vote centers in the time between a regular city election and a runoff. He feared trying vote centers for the runoff would have confused voters.

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