NORRISTOWN - Only about a third of the registered voters in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties decided the future of the counties, the court system, their municipalities and their school districts on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

In Montgomery County, 163,459 voters participated in Tuesday's elections for a 31.8-percent voter turnout.

"While that is not a great turnout, it is better than we thought it would be," said county voter services director Joseph R. Passarella, who, along with the heads of both major political parties, had predicted a 25-percent turnout.

The 31.8-percent turnout is more than double the 14.1-percent turnout in the May primary election. It is also better than the 27.4-percent turnout in the November 1999 general election that featured similar contests for county commissioner, judges, row offices, and municipal and school board races.

In Chester County, 80,673 people, or 27.3 percent of the 295,230 registered voters, voted in Tuesday's general election.

While the numbers seem low, the turnout was actually higher than in the last off-year election, in 2001. Of the 282,669 county residents registered to vote for the 2001 election, 66,738 people, or 23.6 percent of the total, voted.

Off-year elections are races that do not feature a high-profile gubernatorial, congressional or presidential election; those national and statewide races tend to polarize the electorate and generate higher voter turnout.

For instance, when Pennsylvania was electing a governor last year, more than half, or 144,813 of Chester County's 288,722 registered voters, made it to the polls on Election Day. And when the county elected a president in 2000, 65 percent of the county's eligible voters, or 189,750 of the 293,179 registered, cast ballots on Election Day.

Berks County had the best turnout of the three area counties with 33.8 percent of registered voters going to the polls. In the primary, 23 percent of Berks County voters cast ballots.

Mercury staff writer Sharon Stahl contributed to this report.

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