Preparations under way for March primaries

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, February 5, 2012

Turnout is sure to be lighter, but thepreparations must still be done.

    That’s the position Lincoln County political party leaders findthemselves in as they get ready for next month’s Republican andDemocratic primaries. Voters will go to the polls on March 13 tomake their partisan choices in three federal contests: president,U.S. senator and U.S. representative.

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    Almost all eyes will be on the Republican side as Mississippi GOPvoters make their choice known for presidential nominee from amongeight candidates on the ballot. Still, longtime Lincoln CountyRepublican committee member Bonita Bullock predicted a “mild”turnout.

    “I don’t know that we’ll have that big of a turnout because youdon’t have anyone local that’s running,” said Bullock, pointing outa contrast between this year’s primaries and last year’s when stateand county offices were decided.

     Some of the Republicanpresidential hopefuls whose names will appear on the ballot, suchas Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have suspended their campaigns or droppedout altogether. At this juncture, former Massachusetts Gov. MittRomney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Texas U.S. Rep.Ron Paul, and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, remain inthe battle for the nomination.

    By next month, after a flurry of February contests around thenation, a more clearly defined front-runner may have emerged. Thatcould further depress turnout in a state that’s a small fish in thebig presidential primary pond.

    Lincoln County’s Republican primary ballot also has two otherraces, where incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Third DistrictU.S. Rep. Gregg Harper must go through the motions to capture thenominations in their respective races. Wicker faces two opponentsin his statewide contest and Harper one in his regional tilt.

    The Democratic primary ballot will have only one contested race,that being for U.S. Senate. Three candidates are vying for theright to compete in November against who in all likelihood will beWicker.

    President Barack Obama is unopposed in his re-election bid andCrystal Biggs will be the Democratic Party’s nominee inMississippi’s Third District U.S. representative race.

    Helen Funk, Lincoln County Democratic Executive Committee chairman,voiced comments similar to Bullock’s regarding expectedturnout.

    “It probably will be a low turnout,” said Funk, who did not venturea guess on how many people will show up to vote.

    Funk attributed the expected low turnout to a lack of namerecognition and a lack of campaigning by candidates.

    “The people don’t know who these candidates are and don’t payattention to it,” she said.

    Despite the minimal interest, local officials are continuing withplans for next month’s electoral activities.

    That includes finalizing the party’s ballots with the Secretary ofState’s office, recruiting and training poll workers, and gettingballots printed. Bullock indicated party leaders will try to keepthe number of printed ballots as low as possible because of theexpected turnout.

    “There’s no need to go and have a lot of them printed because we’renot going to need a lot of extra ones,” she said.

    One area where election costs are difficult to minimize is pollworkers.

    With a required minimum of three poll workers per precinct, Bullockand Funk each will need close to 100 people to man Lincoln County’s32 precincts on primary day. Bullock and Funk are in the process ofrecruiting those needed workers.

    As far as pay, each precinct manager receives $100 for the day andthe two workers get $80 each. Therefore, poll worker costs for theday alone put the county’s election tab at more than $16,500.

    “It costs a lot to have an election,” Funk said.

    Poll workers in need of training receive $7 for going through thatprocess. However, Funk indicated many of the county’s poll workershad been through multiple times, so she was optimistic trainingcosts would not be too great.

    “That should work out real well,” she said.

    While next month’s contests have received relatively littleattention and results could be foregone conclusions, much effortand expense are still involved in putting on the primaries. Thatfact – plus the point that the ability to choose our electedleaders is one of our most-cherished freedoms in this country – isreason enough for citizens to take an interest and participate whengiven the chance.