Primary voter turnout deemed disappointing

Published 6:00 pm Friday, August 5, 2011

For all of the election procedure fuss thatbegan early Tuesday morning and lingered for more than 24 hours,not even half of Lincoln County’s registered voters bothered tocast any ballots.

    According to complete and official results of the Democratic andRepublican primaries, which were certified Thursday afternoon byparty chairpersons, 11,177 of the county’s 24,233 registered votersparticipated in the primaries. The turnout figure includes votesthat were cast at the polls, absentee ballots and affidavitballots.

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    Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins was perplexed at the meager 46.12percent of registered people who voted.

    “The turnout is very disappointing,” she said. “I really thoughtwith as many local candidates on the ballot as there were that morepeople would turn out.”

    Of the 49 total races from each primary, over half were forpositions in Lincoln County.

    Watkins explained the low turnout numbers are an indicator for ahigh necessity for residents to exercise the right torepresentation in their government.

    “When not even 50 percent of the population are wanting to choosewho their leaders are going to be, that’s when citizens need torealize they need to get out and vote the most,” Watkins said. “Ijust don’t understand why people won’t get out and vote.”

    Helen Funk, chairperson for the Lincoln County Democratic ExecutiveCommittee, said she hoped for a better turnout.

    “If we would’ve had 60 percent of the registered population turnout, that would’ve been great,” Funk said. “But we were way lowerthan that.”

    Officials found it hard to speculate as to the reasons why theturnout was low. Most of them ended up saying, in jest, that it wasthe heat that kept people from heading to their respectiveprecincts.

    Some citizens at the courthouse in the late hours of the nightTuesday and into Wednesday morning, attributed the low number ofvotes to voter apathy. Funk agreed that might be true.

    Regardless of the reasons, Watkins hopes for better numbers at therunoff elections Aug. 23 and the general election Nov. 8.

    Absentee voting for the runoff will begin Aug. 13 at the circuitclerk’s office in the Brookhaven-Lincoln County GovernmentComplex.

    That Saturday, the office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. Theoffice will be open normal business hours during the next week,Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and again the nextSaturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

    “I’ve already contacted the Secretary of State’s office for theabsentee ballots,” Watkins said. “People can come fill out theirabsentee ballots at any time during those hours. We should be readyto go.”

    Watkins also wanted to stress that a person voting in the runoffshas to vote within the same party they voted for in theprimaries.

    “Whichever primary party you voted in on Aug. 2, you have toparticipate in the same for the runoff,” she said.

    Election poll workers will have lists at the runoff indicating whovoted in which party’s primary to ensure the same voters votewithin the same party.

    Deputy Circuit Clerk Sherry Jordan added that if someone did notvote in the primary, they can still vote in the runoff.

    “If you did not vote in the primary,” she said, “you will decide atthe runoff which party you want to vote in.”