1st District expects big turnout

By EMILY LE COZ and PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Expect a strong turnout at the polls Tuesday after an early rush on absentee voting sweeps across the region.
In county after county, circuit clerks have reported unusually large numbers of absentee ballots for a midterm election. Typically, high absentee voting means a high election-day turnout.
“It’s crazy,” said DeSoto County Circuit Clerk Dale Thompson, reporting more than 2,000 absentee votes likely to be cast out of the fast-growing county’s 85,000 registered voters.
“They’re lined up out there right now,” she said about 1:15 p.m. Friday. She also noted her office had to order another 1,000 absentee envelopes to deal with the numbers.
Thompson speculated that her voters must be “concerned” and are likely to show up big on Tuesday.
“It’s great that they’re showing up,” she added.
DeSoto is part of Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District, where nine candidates seek the U.S. House of Representatives seat. Each county also has its own slate of local races including judges, constables and school board members.
Local races sometimes stir voters more than the congressional bids, which is one reason Lee County Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin thinks absentee voting in her county has been so high – more than 1,000 ballots mailed out so far.
Lee County has about 55,000 registered voters.
“Anytime you have a local race and local candidates – and we have 10 candidates for constable alone – the interest might be a little higher,” Loftin said. “Then we also have a school board race that’s contested.”
About 60 people filled out absentee ballots in Lee County on Saturday. Of them were James White and Susan Miller.
“I’m not going to be in town that day and I never miss a chance to vote so I decided to come in and do it today,” said James Miller. “This is going to be a very important election for all of us, so I had to throw my vote in.”
Susan Miller is voting on Tuesday, but because her son is incarcerated she was submitting a ballot for him.
“He always voted when he was out and he wanted to continue to exercise that right, so he is voting absentee,” she explained.
Pontotoc County has one school board race affecting only a couple of precincts, and, accordingly, absentee voting is low.
“We have a little over 200 absentees, and generally we should have about 400 right now,” said Circuit Clerk Tracy Robinson.
Pontotoc County has about 16,800 registered voters.
But Itawamba County absentee voting is high, with 175 absentee ballots cast. Ditto in Lafayette County with nearly 600 ballots.
“That’s a lot, for a midterm,” said Lafayette Circuit Clerk Mary Alice Busby, predicting a larger-than-usual turnout Tuesday.
Itawamba County has about 15,000 voters; Lafayette has 24,000.
Linda Barnette, Grenada County’s circuit clerk, said she believes a lot of her 16,000 registered voters “decided at the last minute to get engaged” with the election by voting absentee.
“It’s going good,” she said of the walk-in business in her office. “It’s larger than usual” for a midterm election and a “good indicator” for a large turnout Tuesday.
Barnette said nearly 600 had voted absentee by early Friday afternoon.
“Some of them are saying they want a change and others are saying, no, let’s keep what we’ve got,” she added.
In Lowndes County, with its 43,500 registered voters, Clerk Mahala Nickles Salazar predicted “a pretty decent turnout,” too.
She said more than 1,000 absentee votes have been cast.
“There seems to be a lot of interest,” she said Friday.
One reason, she said, is extra travel by some of her voters in November.
“You know, it’s really a very pretty time of year.”
Saturday at noon was the deadline at circuit clerks’ offices for walk-in absentee balloting for Tuesday’s election.
Danza Johnson contributed to this story.