Voter turnout tops 60 percent
The usual apathy that comes with mid-term elections was shattered by high voter turnouts nationwide Tuesday, and local voters were just as fired up.
By the time the final tally was marked down for all 30 precincts in Lincoln County late Tuesday, almost 13,000 local voters had cast ballots, a turnout almost twice that of the last mid-term contest in 2014. But this year’s election was bigger, with a local candidate competing in a race of intense national interest and more than half the county school board up for grabs, and Lincoln County voters came out to have their say, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield.
“That U.S. Senate race was one of the main topics, but then we also had some school board members and judges with candidates opposing them,” he said. “Lincoln County was very busy Tuesday. Sixty-two percent in Lincoln County was a great turnout — that’s up there with our top elections for most turnout. That was a great turnout.”
The big turnout was on as soon as polling places opened up at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and by the time the final counts from all Lincoln County’s 30 precincts were tallied late Tuesday night, 12,728 ballots had been cast, a total that represents 61.57 percent of the county’s 20,672 registered voters. By comparison, 7,525 ballots were cast in November 2014, when U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper cruised to easy Republican victories.
The total Tuesday night included 1,053 absentee ballots, 133 affidavit ballots and 11 curbside ballots.
Bairfield said several polling places hit near-record turnout numbers — Halbert Heights recorded a 71 percent turnout, with nearly 1,100 total votes cast. The Norfield and Old Brook precincts hit 70 percent, the City Hall precinct hit 69 percent and 67 percent of the Caseyville voters did their civic duty.
“These were some outstanding numbers for these polling places,” Bairfield said.
This year’s top vote-getter — U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Brookhaven Republican — got more votes on her own than were cast the entire election in 2014. Hyde-Smith’s 7,870 votes gave her 62 percent of the race in Lincoln County, helping her outpace Tea Party contender Chris McDaniel statewide, by a long shot, and set up a runoff with Democrat Mike Espy on Nov. 27.
Jackson-area Republican Michael Guest got even more votes on his way to represent the 3rd Congressional District, as 8,705 Lincoln Countians backed him for Congress.
Hyde-Smith’s biggest box was Halbert Heights, where she drew 841 votes. Only 159 voters in that community backed Espy, while McDaniel reached only 79 voters. Halbert Heights residents could only spare eight votes for fourth-place Democrat Tobey Bartee, who ran almost unknown after raising less than $5,000 in campaign cash and hugged the bottom in every polling place.
Hyde-Smith’s victory was more complete at the Enterprise polling place, where her 590 votes flew over McDaniel’s 96 and Espy’s 45. It was the same at Old Brook — Hyde-Smith, 564; Espy, 94; McDaniel, 36. The former agriculture commissioner also cleaned house at Loyd Star with 534 votes, and at West Lincoln with 447 votes.
Black voters in the city, meanwhile, went for Espy. The former Clinton administration secretary saw his biggest totals from the Alexander precinct, which covers the neighborhoods around Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At that box, he pulled in 384 ballots — 95 percent of the vote — while Hyde-Smith ranked second with 12 votes.
Espy also carried the Brignal/Rogers Circle precinct, a combined box that houses two voting zones — a large, oddly-shaped district running from the east side of Hwy. 51 to the northern reaches of the city limits above Brignal, and a small, almost-square community out by the industrial park.
Those voters went for Espy with 345 votes, though Hyde-Smith, even there, captured 151 ballots. The Government Complex precinct, where voters from the neighborhoods around South First and South Second streets vote, counted 340 marks for Espy (Hyde-Smith had 22). Voters in the Brookhaven High School area gave almost all their votes to Espy — 275 — and Pearlhaven community gave him 248.
The same boxes split the same way for the 3rd Congressional District, where Republican Michael Guest won by similar margins over Democrat Michael Ted Evans; and for the Class I race for U.S. Senate, where incumbent Republican Roger Wicker outran Democrat David Baria for another term.
Joseph Durr, judge-elect for the 15th Chancery District that includes Copiah and Lincoln counties, carried every box in Lincoln County on his way to a victory over Renee Harrison Berry, though at least two boxes were split. Durr’s victory was big — 9,053 to 2,929 — though Berry got within five votes at the Government Complex, losing 170-165, and at Pearlhaven, falling by just three votes, 138-135.
Mike Taylor, 14th Circuit District judge, fought a close race against challenger David Lee Brewer in Brewer’s home of Pike County, but he got enough votes there, and in Walthall County, that his dominant performance in Lincoln pushed him to victory. Taylor won another term on the bench with 14,307 votes, 56 percent, to Brewer’s 11,032, 44 percent.
Like Durr, Taylor carried every Lincoln County box, but he had a couple of narrow wins in the smaller precincts. Taylor cleaned house at Halbert Heights with 923 votes, at Old Brook with 565 and at Loyd Star with 553 — but voters at Johnson gave him only 39 votes over Brewer’s 156, and voters in Ruth cleared him by only 10 votes, 188-178.
In the race for Lincoln County School District Board of Trustees Educational District 2, challenger Billy Vaughn carried all seven precincts to unseat incumbent Johnny Hart by a vote of 777-496.
Vaughn won big at Old Red Star, where he gathered in 246 votes to Hart’s 167, and he carried the Loyd Star box by a score of 152-102. The race was closer among New Sight voters, who gave Vaughn the edge 102-86, and in Heucks Retreat, which voted for the challenger 53-50. Vaughn picked up Little Bahala 103-45, Lipsey 11-5 and Montgomery 110-41.
Timothy Cunningham barely won the school board’s District 5 seat — Bairfield said his 50.04 percent was a a difference of “two or three, maybe four” total ballots — because of the 50 percent, plus one vote rule. But by simple vote-counting, he far outpaced incumbent Joanna Posey and challenger Lora Hedgepeth. Cunningham picked up 617 votes to Posey’s 355 and Hedgepeth’s 261
Cunningham scored his biggest win at the Caseyville box, picking up 199 votes to Posey’s 90 and Hedgepeth’s 61. He doubled them up at the Loyd Star precinct, winning 217 votes to Hedepeth’s 107 and Posey’s 109.
Posey won the box at Vaughn, with her 116 votes better than Cunningham’s 110 and Hedgepeth’s 51, though Cunningham took Zetus with 68 votes. He won much smaller totals at Johnson Grove, Lipsey and West Lincoln, which each cast 20 or fewer votes in the race.