Light rain gets blame for light voter turnout|[5/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

From staff reports

Turnout was light across the city this morning as a light drizzle met those who cast ballots in primary voting for municipal elections.

Polls will remain open until 7 tonight for voting in three contests that will determine the party candidates in the June 7 general election. Live results will be carried tonight on the city’s cable channel, RCTV 23, WQBC 1420 A.M. and on the Internet at

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Weather forecasts are calling for a 20 percent chance of rain throughout the day.

Ballots being cast today contain the names of Democratic hopefuls in the mayor’s race and for both aldermen’s seats.

On today’s ballot for mayor are former Warren County District 2 Supervisor John Ferguson, 63; Eric Rawlings, 42, who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination four years ago; Warren County District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, 44; and first-time office-seeker John Shorter, 38, a contractor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

If none of the candidates in today’s primaries gets a majority of the votes, a runoff will be in two weeks, on May 17.

Municipal election commissioner Gail Walker said that except for some “little glitches” including cell phone problems and the unexpected rain, everything was going smoothly.

“All the buildings are open and all the machines are working and that’s what you hope for,” Walker said.

At the City Auditorium precinct, one of the largest in the city, poll manager Carla Jones said a few people waited outside for the doors to open at 7. By 7:15, about 20 people had voted.

“It will come and go. I expect it will be like this all day,” Jones said.

At the American Legion precinct, where about 300 voters were moved to the North Ward this year, about 40 people voted in the first half hour.

“I look for (turnout) to be pretty good today,” said poll manager Marilyn Patterson.

But, at the Vicksburg Junior High School precinct, which was also moved to the North Ward this year, only five people had voted by 7:20. Assistant poll manager Mary Tyler described that turnout as “very slow for 7:20.”

Janice Winters, poll manager for the Kings precinct, said she thinks the early rain probably accounted for lower numbers there. By 7:30, only 16 voters had cast ballots.

“There are just not a lot of people,” she said. “Maybe some would have stopped if it wasn’t raining.”

Winters expected voting to pick up at the North Ward precinct around noon and again late this evening.

On the ballot in the North Ward are incumbent Alderman Gertrude Young, 49; Warren County District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield, 47; and Rodney Dillamar, 45, a convenience store owner.

In the South Ward, first-year poll manager Roy Campbell at the YMCA precinct at Porters Chapel United Methodist Church, where three people had cast ballots by 7:05, said he didn’t expect much turnout today.

“It looks like it’s going to be light here,” Campbell said.

And at the No. 7 Fire Station, another South Ward precinct, five people had voted by 7:05.

About 20 votes had been cast by 7:50 at the Elks Lodge precinct and about 32 at the Plumbers and Pipefitters precinct by 8:20.

Former Vicksburg police officer DaVon Grey, 46, and local hair dresser Pam Johnson, 39, are seeking the party nomination for the South Ward alderman’s post.

Winners in all three primary races will advance to the June 7 general election along with independent candidates and Republicans. In the mayor’s contest, the winner faces Republican Shirley Newman Smollen, 69, and independents incumbent Mayor Laurence Leyens, 40, and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65, for the $73,500-a-year post.

The North Ward winner will face independents Vickie Bailey, 37, and Tommie Rawlings, 42, in the general election and the South Ward nominee will take on incumbent Alderman Sid Beauman, 57.

Aldermen are paid $58,000.