By Daily Journal Staff reports
Snow and ice have slowed voter turnout across the region today but so far caused no problems at the polls, where workers have been handling ballots for two special elections.
The polls will stay open until 7 p.m., and election officials are encouraging people to vote despite winter weather.
“While circumstances are not ideal for casting a ballot, I encourage all Mississippians in areas holding a special election to vote,” said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “Voting is our most important right. Our fellow citizens are risking their lives so you can cast a ballot. I encourage you to exercise that privilege today.”
Northeast Mississippi is home to two elections today – that of northern transportation commissioner to replace Bill Minor, who died unexpectedly; and that of District 6 state senator to replace Alan Nunnelee, who resigned to become a U.S. representative.
While the transportation race is regionwide, the senate contest extends to just north Lee County and a portion of northeast Pontotoc County.
As of about 2 p.m., about 500 people had voted at Lee County’s largest precinct at Lawndale Presbyterian Church, said precinct manager Dot Harrelson. That’s about one-third of the typical election-day turnout by mid afternoon she said.
“It’s like Noah’s Ark, they’re coming two by two,” Harrelson said. “It’s just a trickle.”
Lee County Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin said she’s kept in touch with poll workers across the area today and said that turnout has been slow but steady – if not slightly better than expected. She said Bissell had about 500 voters by 3 p.m., which she called positive.
No one has experienced any major trouble, Loftin added.
Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said of today’s voter participation, “I haven’t heard from every precinct, but judging from the turnout here at the courthouse, it’s low.”
In Pontotoc County, a Circuit Clerk’s Office spokesman called turnout “much slower than usual. The polls haven’t seen much activity.”
12 pm – Voting slow across region, clerks report
In North Mississippi, candidates seek seats in the Senate and on the Transportation Commission
TUPELO – Lee County voting began today with a light turnout, as voters throughout the region sloshed through snow and slush.
Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin said about 10 a.m. that her election forces were hard at work across the weekend getting ready for bad weather and today’s special election.
Voters across North Mississippi will choose between seven non-party candidates for Transportation Commissioner to fill the seat vacated when Bill Minor of Holly Springs died last fall.
In some Lee and Pontotoc county precincts, voters also choose between six candidates for the state Senate, to replace Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo who was elected to the U.S. House last November.
If needed, a runoff will be Feb. 1.
Between a small ballot and drivers’ concerns about roads, voter turnout so far this morning seems exceedingly light.
A spokesman from the Pontotoc County Circuit Clerk’s Office didn’t have any figures from specific precincts, but said they had fielded few of the usual phone calls about precinct locations and hours.
“I suspect it’s going to go slowly,” she said.
In Lafayette County, three hours after the polls opened, 11 people had voted in Abbeville and 12 at Oxford’s Stone Center precinct. No comparative numbers were available for the same time in other elections, but one Circuit Clerk’s Office employee laughingly termed the turnout “pitiful.”
Union County voters were also in short supply. Reports were not available for most precincts, but a Circuit Clerk’s Office spokesman said, “It’s very slow here at the courthouse so far.” She held out hope that more voters might participate this afternoon.
“I figure people will get out and about a little more when the temperature picks up, but these small ballots don’t draw near as many people anyway,” she said.
Voters in Tishomingo County were few Tuesday morning, said Circuit Clerk Donna Dill.
“We’re up and going, but things are slow right now,” she said. “Maybe if the sun would come out things might pick up.”
The light turnout for the special election was just as expected, a spokeswoman in the Tippah County Circuit Clerk’s Office said.
The picture was pretty consistent across counties to the north, with Alcorn and Prentiss counties also reporting only a handful of voters by mid-morning.
* For results, come back to NEMS360.com after polls close at 7 p.m.