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Primary registration voting deadline Friday

Anyone wishing to vote in the March 11 presidential primarieswho has not yet registered has but one day left to do so.

The actual deadline for voter registration in Lincoln County isSunday, Feb. 10. But with the courthouse closed on weekends,Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said unregisteredvoters most make themselves official by 5 p.m. Friday.

Watkins stressed the importance of registering and participatingin the primary this year as, unlike most previous years,Mississippi’s primary is shaping up to have an impact onclose-running candidates. She said she expects to see a greaterturnout at the polls in 2008 to weigh in on the unusually closerace.

“As a rule, by the time we have our primaries, the nominees inboth parties are pretty much decided,” she said. “But that’s notthe case this year, especially in the Democratic race. I thinkwe’ll see a bigger turnout than normal for our primaries.”

Watkins’ office has already began making preparations for thevote.

“Right now, we’re making sure we have all the supplies we need,getting things ready and communicating back and forth with thesecretary of state’s office,” she said.

One of the preparations the office has not been able to make issecuring the ballots for absentee voting.

Watkins said that as of Wednesday, the secretary of state’soffice had not yet printed the official ballots. If the ballots donot arrive in time, Watkins said the county would begin printingpaper ballots, which will not scan in the county’s 133 votingmachines and must be counted by hand.

No matter the type of ballot used, the timing of the primary maymake absentee voting more prominent in the county in 2008.

“We may have several people voting by absentee ballot this year,because the election is during the week of spring break,” Watkinssaid. “A lot people may be leaving town during the primaries.”

To counter the potential absence of voters, the circuit clerk’soffice will be open on the two Saturdays before the election, onMarch 1 and March 8, so that absentee voters will have plenty oftime to make their marks.

With the local National Guard unit at home for this election,voting from afar will be light this year. Watkins said there mightbe three votes cast from the military in Lincoln County by fax.Soldiers stationed away from home are the only voters that may faxtheir ballots.

When primary day arrives on March 11, the 32 polling placesaround the county will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The executive parties in the county will be responsible foroperating the polling places. State law requires that at leastthree attendants be on hand at each polling place, although Watkinssaid most would have four or five on duty.

Even though the executive parties are responsible for providingthe 100 or more attendants to operate the polling places, thecounty is responsible for compensating these workers.

Watkins said box managers are paid $100 per day while pollworkers receive $90. The county will pay at least $9,000 tocompensate these workers and perhaps more, depending on how manyworkers monitor each polling place.

The county’s expense is yet another reason, aside from patrioticconvictions, that voters should show up at the polls and performthis duty of citizenship.

“The county pays – elections are expensive,” Watkins said.”That’s why it just kills me when we don’t have a good turnout.Running these polling places costs the county a lot.”