With Romney In Lead, GOP Primaries Quiet

Tuesday is primary day in five states. But with the nomination all but sewn up for Mitt Romney, finding people actually interested in voting can be tough.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

New York is one of five states holding a Republican presidential primary today, but with Mitt Romney all but certain to be the party's nominee, many voters there have simply tuned out.

North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports from upstate New York.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: It's the lunch hour in Lake Placid, New York and the mood here at the town hall's polling place is anything but electric.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're all punch drunk.

MANN: Punch drunk with boredom, that is. Election workers sit with their ledgers and their voter rolls, dutifully keeping an eye on the ballot machines, but the machines have hardly been touched. When I dropped by, only one lonely voter had turned up.

Election inspector Denise Frederick says she's not surprised.

DENISE FREDERICK: I've heard people say they didn't even know there was an election.

MANN: So, when things are slow, like - I mean, they're - gosh, there are, like, a dozen of you in here. What do you do to pass the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We study the...

FREDERICK: We're - yeah. We're studying the manual.

MANN: You know people are really bored when they're entertaining themselves with election rule handbooks. One reason things are so deadly slow here is that the courts and political leaders in New York decided to schedule three different primaries, one for the presidential race today and two others this summer, one for congressional races and another for the state legislature.

Derinda Sherman, the Republican election commissioner here in Essex County, worries that people are just tuning out.

DERINDA SHERMAN: There's confusion within the general public. The media really hasn't covered it a lot, so a lot of people really are unclear what they're voting for today or voting at all.

MANN: With all the meaning squeezed out of today's primary, Howard Barbanel, publisher of the South Shore Standard newspaper on Long Island, says it's no wonder people in New York can't be bothered to care.

HOWARD BARBANEL: They'll probably have anywhere from a five to 10 percent voter turnout is my estimation and that's a colossal waste of taxpayer money and a big frustration to a lot of voters.

MANN: Today's ritual is costing this one rural county $40,000. After lurking around polling places for more than an hour, I couldn't find a single person who'd voted or even planned to vote. And all those punch drunk election workers stuck in that room - they have to hang around until 9:00 tonight, no matter how many voters turn up.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Lake Placid, New York.

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