Light turnout predicted for Tuesday runoff

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 20, 2006

Election officials said Friday they would be astonished if thesurprisingly strong voter tournout for the general election Nov. 7was repeated in Tuesday’s runoff elections.

“There always seems to be significantly less people to vote in arunoff,” said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins. “Wewant to encourage everyone to come out and vote because this is avery important race.”

The only race on the Lincoln County ballot is a seat on theCourt of Appeals. It pits District 15 Chancery Court Judge EdPatten against state Rep. Virginia Carlton.

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Patten was unopposed in his bid to reclaim the chancery courtposition in the general election Nov. 7.

The Court of Appeals race will also appear on the ballot inLawrence, Franklin and Copiah counties. Lawrence County’s ballotwill also feature a runoff election between Prentiss Harrell andForrest Dantin to sit on the bench in the 15th Circuit CourtDistrict, said Lawrence County Circuit Clerk Cindy Stokes.

Patten and Carlton were among a field of five candidatescompeting for the state seat two weeks ago when a suprisinglystrong 43 percent of voters went to the polls.

“We had a really good turnout for an off-year election,” Watkinssaid.

However, circuit clerks are not expecting a return to those highvoting numbers Tuesday.

As of Friday, the Lincoln County office had only received 12absentee ballots and eight had been filed with the Lawrence Countyoffice.

“The turnout Tuesday will be extremely low,” Stokespredicted.

Stokes said Lawrence County is facing an additional difficultywith absentee ballots that will have a negative effect on thenumber cast.

“We just got notice yesterday that we could start absenteevoting,” Stokes said Friday. “We’ve had numerous calls about whenwe were going to mail out absentee ballots, but the state onlycertified the election yesterday.

“Our hands were tied,” Stokes continued. “There was nothing wecould do.”

The delay, Stokes said, was caused by a high number of affidavitballots in Pearl River County in the race for the 15th CircuitCourt District.

Approximately 150 votes separated candidates Dantin from ManyaCreel Bryan to decide who would meet Harrell in the runoffelection.

Pearl River County had more than 400 affidavit ballots to countand didn’t certify the election until Wednesday morning. Withoutthat certification, Stokes said, the state could not determine whowould be on Tuesday’s ballot.

“There is no time now to order ballots on the correct paper forthe absentee and affidavit ballots and get them back in time forthe election,” she said. “We’ll have to use photocopies andmanually enter those votes.”

Stokes said she does not expect the count to be slowed much onTuesday night because of the ballot delay.

“It’s much quicker to enter those votes now and there’s only thetwo races to count,” she said.

Another factor that will influence voter turnout is theThanksgiving holiday, Watkins said. Children will be out of theschool this week and many families will be leaving town to visitrelatives outside the voting area.