About 35 voters showed up at the YMCA before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning to cast ballots in the primary election.

"That's an average turnout here," said Ukawanna Nesbit, judge of elections at the polling location in the city.

In the 50 years Nesbit has helped out with elections, off-year primaries have always received a low-to-average turnout in the city, she said.

"Presidential primaries are much heavier," she said.

Tuesday's primary includes a hotly contested judge seat and three big-name candidates running for the State House, but the county's top election official is expecting the same dismal turnout as past primaries.

The county can expect between 17 percent and 20 percent of registered voters, less than one-in-five registered voters, to cast ballots, said Nikki Suchanic, director of the county's Department of Elections and Voter Registration.

Roger Stabley, 83, arrived to vote at the YMCA a little after 8 a.m.

As a tour guide at the York County Judicial Center, the race for common pleas judge is especially important to him, he said.

"I want someone who has a lot of experience, integrity and knowledge," Stabley said.

Lindsay Hosler, 26, arrived by 8:30 a.m. to vote for candidates who would fight for what's important to her, she said.

"I'm looking for anyone who will tackle the big issues and knows how to balance a budget," Hosler said.

Expectations: Turnout is expected to hover close to the 17.4 percent logged during the 2011 off-year primary, she said.

There are 282,728 voters registered for Tuesday's contest - 136,977 Republicans, 102,194 Democrats, and 43,557 independent voters.

In the best-case scenario, a 20 percent turnout of the combined 239,171 Democrats and Republicans would mean only about 48,000 people weighed in on party races.

Independents are only allowed to vote in the special election in the 95th House District, being held to find a replacement for Democrat Eugene DePasquale, who's now the state auditor general.

The House: While the Republicans have had a stronghold in all other districts in the county, the heavily Democratic 95th House District has been elusive since Republican Stanford Lehr left office in 1984.

The GOP is hoping the 29-year dry spell will end Tuesday with candidate Bryan Tate, said Bob Wilson, chairman of the Republican Party of York County.

"This is an opportunity for us to have an historic evening tomorrow evening, to make history," he said.

York County Democratic Party chair Bob Kefauver conceded it's easier for any challenger to pick up an empty seat than to unseat an incumbent, but he's confident Kevin Schreiber is the best candidate.

The election also features Green Party candidate Bill Swartz.

Kefauver said the race could come down to turnout, so Democrats led a robust get-out-the-vote push for the 72 hours leading up to the election.

Turnout in heavily Democratic York City is likely to be boosted by a contested mayoral race, he said.

Wilson said he expects turnout to be low across the county, as it is typically in an off-year election.

"It's really sad because ... everybody should have a say in who's representing them," he said. "I think anything below 20 percent is horrible. I just wish more people would take the time to vote. We have servicemen and women overseas fighting for our right to cast a ballot."

Elsewhere: Suchanic said turnout in some municipalities could be higher, closer to 20 percent.

More voters are likely to weigh in in areas such as West York, where there's much debate over the town's council, and Dallastown and Dillsburg, where there are liquor referendums on the ballot.

The race for Common Pleas Judge, a contest between retired U.S. Rep. Todd Platts and Judge Mike Flannelly, is likely to bring out some voters countywide, she said.

Suchanic said voter turnout is likely to be even lower in November, depending on how many races are decided in the primary.

In 2011, the last off-year election, there was only one person left on the ballot for some offices. The 14 percent turnout logged for November 2011 was the worst turnout in six years.

Turnout is typically higher in presidential years, with 24.9 percent of York's registered voters casting a ballot in 2012's April primary and 68 percent voting in the presidential election in November.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.