Election Day: No. Tahoe PUD brings public to cast ballots | SierraSun.com

Election Day: No. Tahoe PUD brings public to cast ballots

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunDick Klein of Tahoe City gets on his bike after voting at the North Tahoe Fire Station 53 Tuesday afternoon. Klein has voted in Tahoe City for more than 30 years.
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North Shore voters turned out in force Tuesday, motivated by national issues, such as the war in Iraq, and a local race with the most competition in over two decades.

“This is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Kaleta Brown, a polling place clerk in Kings Beach who has been working elections since 1998. “It’s been busier than it ever has been.”

While many voters cited hot-button national issues like the Iraq war as their main motivation for voting on election day, the North Tahoe Public Utility District race, which has seen little or no competition over the last three decades, also drew voters.

Three candidates ” Sue Daniels, Theresa May Duggan and Al Turner ” signed up for seat 3, which was occupied by recently-retired Norma Schwartz for 26 years.

Jerry Wotel challenged incumbent Lane Lewis for seat 4 on the board, which Lewis has held for 17 years.

“I think it was a good thing to see some healthy competition in that race,” said Bill Dietz, after voting at the bustling North Tahoe Conference Center Tuesday evening.

Other voters agreed that they were happy to have a choice for the public utility seats, although they had little to say about the local contest.

“I think it made our community more interested,” said Pam Lefrancois, who would not share her opinions because she is employed by the public utility district.

With no major nation-wide races to attract people to the polls Tuesday, voters came out for a gamut of reasons, from various proposition questions to the Fourth Congressional District race between Republican John Doolittle and Democrat challenger Charlie Brown.

“I just moved here and voting always makes me feel part of the community,” said Caroline Schley, 23, a Tahoe City resident who voted at the Fairway Community Center. “I am a big pro-choice advocate and I am voting against Prop 85.”

Steve Gamet of Truckee and Guy Wilson of Carnelian Bay said they voted for Brown in the congressional race.

“I feel pretty strongly against him being re-elected,” Gamet said of Doolittle.

Ashley Willwerth voted to “get some of those Republicans out of Congress.”

Kent Williams, 20, of Tahoe City, said he was “looking forward to 1A and 1B” to improve highways because “our roads are terrible.”

Placer County Clerk-Recorder Jim McCauley noted that 40 percent of Placer County voters are permanent absentee voters. Ryan Ronco, Placer County assistant registrar of voters, said the county issued 88,405 absentee ballots for this election and that 43,389 had been returned as of election day. He said that many were expected to be turned in at the polls.

McCauley said he thought the county would have 70 percent voter turnout. He noted that per state law, the county has 28 days to complete the canvass of the ballots and that “if we have a close race, it may take a while to determine winners.”

As of 12:30 p.m., nearly 100 people had voted at the Tahoe City Fire Station, with the same number of voters turning in absentee ballots, according to Judge Don Wiegant, who worked at the polls.

“This is a hell of a lot better than the primary [election] when we only got 33 percent of the total vote, which is anemic at best,” Wiegant said.

At 6 p.m. in a crowded North Tahoe Conference Center polling location, poll worker Caryl Plambeck said the four precincts at the conference center had had a “big turnout.” She was expecting to be busy until the 8 p.m. poll closing time.

“It’s been kind of steady all day,” said Plambeck.

“Sierra Sun reporter David Bunker contributed to this report