Absentee voting trends mixed in area

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 23, 2007

Election officials have both optimism and concern about the paceof absentee voting in this year’s elections.

Absentee voting opened June 25 and the pace has been “steady”for the Aug. 7 primaries, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk TerryLynn Watkins. The county has recorded 364 absentee votes, includingmail-outs that may or may not have been returned by Friday, shesaid.

“A majority of them have been returned, but not all,” Watkinssaid.

The circuit clerk said she is satisfied with the pace ofabsentee voting and expects it to pick up in the final twoweeks.

“It will be up this week and next week,” Watkins said. “I expectthe number to double by the election.”

She estimated between 700 and 800 absentee ballots will havebeen cast by the night of the election.

Absentee voting in Lawrence County, however, is “very low,” saidCircuit Clerk Cindy Stokes. On Friday, the county had received only46 ballots.

“Usually, we’ll have more than 400 by this time,” Stokes said.”We have not had anyone vote Republican.”

Voters must choose in the Aug. 7 primary whether to vote forDemocratic or Republican candidates. Voters can cast their ballotsfor Republicans, Democrats, independents or lesser party candidateson Nov. 7 in the general election.

The Lincoln County Republican primary features a House District92 representative race and a few contested state races, while theDemocratic primary includes many contested county races likesheriff and supervisors.

Although Lincoln County has several county candidates inRepublican primaries, Watkins said few voters have elected toparticipate in them. She said most have opted to vote in theDemocratic primary where the candidate field is much wider.

“We have had several who have come in and requested Republicanballots and then changed their minds after looking at them,” shesaid. “They want to vote for most of the county offices and they’rejust not on there (the Republican ballot).”

Watkins estimated no more than 25 of the county’s 364 absenteeballots were for the Republican primary.

Lawrence County ballots have only state races with Republicancandidates, she said. All county candidates, except one, arerunning on the Democratic ticket.

“That also means that nearly all Lawrence County races will bedecided Aug. 7,” Stokes said.

The only Lawrence County race to advance beyond the primarieswill be for District Two supervisor.

Voters in November will decide whether to elect the winner ofthe Democratic primary or Gloria Billiot, an independent.Democratic candidates in the race are incumbent Billy Joe Boutwell,Joe Evans, Jay E. Maye and Willie Earl Smith.

Both the Lincoln and Lawrence county circuit clerk offices willbe open the next two Saturdays to give absentee voters anopportunity to cast their ballot during the weekend. The LincolnCounty office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon with the LawrenceCounty office open from 9 a.m. to noon on July 28 and Aug. 4.