Voter turnout heavier than expected|[11/7/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 7, 2006

More voters than expected – and a minor mixup – were reported this morning as federal midterm elections got under way – with the added attractions locally of county elections for two judgeships and a coroner.

Polls remain open until 7 p.m.

&#8220It’s hectic, but it’s wonderful,” said Jan Whatley, manager of the Culkin precinct who said the pre-work rush at Sherman Avenue Elementary was solid.

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Assistant District Attorney John Bullard and Circuit Judge Frank Vollor were both there, greeting voters at the largest box in the county and in a subdistrict of the 9th Circuit Court. Bullard and Vollor are facing off in what may be the closest of today’s ballot races.

Rain fell overnight but had ended by about an hour before the poll-opening time. Fair weather is predicted for the rest of the day.

The mixup was with poll books. Several early-morning voters left Vicksburg Junior High School, said Fred Shields, poll manager, after it was discovered the precinct had the wrong voter list. The VJHS book was found at Fire Station No. 7 – and vice versa – and the books got to their correct places in about 30 minutes, Shields added.

&#8220Some (voters) will come back and some will not,” said Angela Canizaro, a poll worker at the school. By 7:45 a.m., 10 people had voted at the fire station and 17 at VJHS.

Poll worker John Smith predicted a &#8220moderately heavy” vote, citing the combination of state and national voting.

Diebold touch-screen voting machines were used in primary and runoff elections earlier this year, but today is their debut in a general election.

Since 1990 Warren County voters had marked paper ballots for insertion into optical scanners. Area counties used a variety of other methods, but almost 100 percent of Mississippi polling places now have Diebold equipment.

One machine at the American Legion precinct had malfunctioned, causing voters to vote by affidavit, said Marilyn Patterson, poll manager. She said about 15 to 20 people had voted shortly after 7:30 a.m., but an actual number wasn’t available due to the problem with the machine, which was up and running again after 30 minutes, she said.

Bailiff Michael Baroudy of the Plumbers & Pipefitters precinct said 11 people had voted there by about 7:30 a.m.

At the Carpenters’ Union, 47 people had already cast their votes by 7:30 this morning, said precinct manager Warren Triplett.

&#8220So far, so good,” Triplett said. &#8220It’s been a good turnout compared to what I’ve seen before.”

Sixty-three people had voted by 7:45 at the Elks Lodge, said precinct manager Mike Lloyd.

&#8220It’s been pretty steady,” Lloyd said.

A couple of the five machines’ screens had been hard to push at first, but Lloyd attributed the problem to the machines warming up first thing this morning.

&#8220They worked themselves out,” he said.

Mark Chaney reported from the Bovina precinct that early turnout was &#8220really good.”

&#8220We had 71 votes in the first 45 minutes,” Chaney said, adding that he hoped that was an indication of a good turnout for the entire day.

Poll workers at the City Auditorium and at Cedar Grove reported early turnout slightly higher than the primary held in June.

&#8220It’s been going,” said Carla Jones, poll manager at City Auditorium. &#8220A lot of people showed up this morning.”

Printouts showed 21 votes cast there by 7:30 p.m.

Secretary of State Eric Clark predicted Monday that one in three registered voters would actually cast a ballot in Mississippi today. Lily Mae Bailey was one of them, saying today was her second time voting on the electronic machines.

&#8220I still don’t like them. But I guess we have to get used to them,” she said.

Others voting this morning said the machines worked smoothly for them and hoped poll workers could assist those who had not used them.

It was all systems go this morning at Goodrum Church on Fisher Ferry Road this morning, said fifth-year supervisor Sara Dionne.

&#8220It took a few minutes to get it together, but we got there,” said Dionne. &#8220It was a big rush at 7 and its been steady ever since. It’s a very busy morning.”

By 7:30 a.m., nearly 40 voters had rushed through Goodrum.

Dorothy Fuller, a Goodrum voter, said the voting machines are the neatest things she’s ever seen.

&#8220The new machines help things go much faster,” said Fuller. &#8220They’re really easy to use.”

About a mile and a half up the road, Berachah Church was also in full swing.

David Daily, first-year precinct supervisor, said he had about 75 voters in the poll’s first hour of operation.

In other races to be on ballots of districts comprised of or including Warren or area counties: