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Officials expect light turnout for Tuesday primary

With only one race on the ballot, officials expect a low voterturnout Tuesday for the Democratic primary to determine who willchallenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.

“We’ve had a very poor turnout,” said Lawrence County CircuitClerk Cindy Stokes.

Only a handful of absentee ballots have been received in Lincolnand Lawrence counties, the clerks said.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins and Stokes saidthey fear voter turnout Tuesday will be no better, which would bedisappointing after the effort their offices, electioncommissioners and poll workers have put into training the public onthe new touch-screen voting machines.

On Tuesday, voters statewide will use the voting machines forthe first time in Democratic primaries for one U.S. Senate seat andtwo of Mississippi’s four U.S. House seats. There is no Republicanprimary.

Watkins and Stokes are encouraging residents to not onlyexercise their right to vote Tuesday, but to also learn about thenew voting machines as experience for the general election inNovember.

“I’m very thankful it is going to be a small election the firsttime we use them,” Watkins said. “I don’t foresee any problems, butit’s nice to start with a small election as a sort of trialrun.”

On the positive side of Tuesday’s election, Stokes said, thecounty has picked up “a good number” of registered voters duringthe training process for the machines.

The only race on the ballot in Lincoln and Lawrence counties isthe Democratic primary to decide who will oppose Lott, ofPascagoula.

In a Democratic bid to challenge Lott are Bill Bowlin, ofHickory Flat; Erik Fleming, of Clinton; James O’Keefe, of Biloxi;and Catherine M. Starr, of Hattiesburg.

Howard Taylor, a Libertarian from Nesbit, will also be on theballot in November.

Lott is in his 33rd year of service in Congress. He has served16 years in the U.S. House and 16 years in the U.S. Senate. Hepresently serves as a chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules andAdministration and as a member on the committees of Commerce,Science and Transportation; Finance; and Intelligence.

A farm equipment salesman for 17 years, Bowlin made unsuccessfulbids as a candidate for Congress in the First District in 1990 and1994. He was elected as an alderman in Hickory Flat in 1997 andserved one term.

Fleming was elected to House of Representatives in 1999, servingconstituents in District 72. He presently serves as vice chairmanof the Enrolled Bills Committee. He also serves on the Conservation& Water Resources; Judiciary B; Juvenile Justice; Ports,Harbors and Airports; and Transportation committees.

O’Keefe has been a business owner and operator for 30 years.

Retiree Starr made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2003.

In addition to the Democratic Senate primary, Copiah County willhave a chance to determine the party’s nominee for U.S.representative of the Second Congressional District. Long-timeincumbent Rep. Bennie Thompson is facing a challenge from stateRep. Chuck Espy and Dorothy “Dot” Benford in the primary.

The Democratic primary winner will go on to face RepublicanYvonne Brown, of Tchula, in the general election on Nov. 7.

Ballots for the general election Nov. 7 will also include racesfor several state and regional judicial posts.