Absentee voting pace picking up

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2007

With primary elections less than a week away, election officialssay the tempo of absentee ballots has increased in the past fewdays.

“We’ve received 88 ballots in the past two days,” Lincoln CountyCircuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said Tuesday. “Yesterday was justa madhouse in here with a steady stream of people coming in.”

Her office had received 564 Democratic or Republican ballots bymid-afternoon Tuesday, Watkins said. However, that number includedmail-outs for those who requested the form be sent to them.

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“We’ve received a lot of the mail-outs back,” she said. “I wouldguess that about 80 percent of those mailed out have beenreturned.”

Watkins urged those who had received a mail-out ballot not towait until the last minute to return them.

“If you haven’t voted your ballot and having it laying around,don’t take the chance that it will be lost in the mail or otherwisedelayed,” she said. “Get it in while you can.”

Absentee voters have until Saturday to cast their ballots inperson at the circuit clerk’s office.

The Lincoln County office will open Saturday from 8 a.m. untilnoon for last chance absentee voters. The Lawrence County CircuitClerk’s office will also be open from 9 a.m. to noon.

Mail-outs will be accepted until Monday. Watkins stressed,however, that they must be received by Monday, not postmarked onthat day.

Watkins predicted her office would receive approximately 800absentee ballots by Tuesday’s elections.

Voters must choose in the Aug. 7 primaries whether to vote forDemocratic or Republican candidates. Voters can cast their ballotsNov. 6 in the general election for their choice of candidates fromeither party.

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.

The only Lawrence County race to advance beyond the primarieswill be for District Two supervisor. Voters in November will decidewhether to elect the winner of the Democratic primary or GloriaBilliot, an independent. Democratic candidates in the race areincumbent Billy Joe Boutwell, Joe Evans, Jay E. Maye and WillieEarl Smith.

The number of races and large fields of candidates have prompteda few questions from rookies and veterans alike about properconduct by candidates near the polling precincts on election day,Watkins said.

Candidates may not place or hand out any printed materialswithin 150 feet of the precinct, she said.

“That includes any kind of sign, pamphlet, banner, poster, card- anything that’s printed – they can’t be within that range,”Watkins said.

However, candidates or poll watchers working for candidates canbe in the precinct to watch over the process, but cannot doanything that would influence a voter, she said.

Even voters can be turned away from a precinct by poll workersif they are wearing a T-shirt, button or other clothing advocatinga candidate, she said.