County turnout higher than 4 years ago, below presidential race

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Turnout in Warren County on Tuesday reached 47.6 percent, easily outpacing local attendance at the polls four years ago and will climb when absentees and affidavit ballots are counted.

Vote summaries for the county’s 22 precincts showed 14,724 showed up to vote in person, up from the 12,675 in 2007, when a governor and county-level offices were last elected. Residents cast 735 absentee ballots in person and by mail, and affidavits are expected to pump the number of outstanding votes past 800, election officials said.

Tallies showed 30,898 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday. Registration has fallen since a high mark of 36,957 for the 2008 presidential election, which set a record with 21,573 total cast. The turnout record was set in 1996, when 72 percent of Warren County’s voters showed up to decide a presidential race and a sheriff’s race where incumbent Martin Pace won his first term.

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Absentees were reprinted in October after the Secretary of State’s Office decided, at the behest of the attorney general, financial impact statements should be on the ballot alongside the three constitutional initiatives. Reprints arrived without scannable codes, forcing the circuit clerk’s office to hand-count them.

News of the wait clearly angered state Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, who easily won re-election in his race over Republican Sam Smith, but was in a tither over absentees — a process that could knock his niece, Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs-Jones, out of a job. She led Republican Patty Mekus by 101 votes in the precinct vote.

“I don’t believe this!” Flaggs told Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree once poll vote counts were done. “This has never had to happen before!”

Ashley-Palmertree expected counts to begin by 10 this morning at the courthouse. The Election Commission must send results to the Secretary of State’s Office by Nov. 18.

Jim Moore, a coordinator with Premier Election Systems, reported smooth sailing with master cards brought to the courthouse. A projector showed updates on Warren County’s website throughout the night.

Tuesday’s precinct vote count took a little less time than the Aug. 2 primary, clocking in at 4 1/2 hours after polls closed at 7 p.m. It took five hours for the primary.

Ballot cards at the Bovina and Cedar Grove precincts took the longest time to arrive to the courthouse. Cedar Grove poll workers failed to transfer data onto a master card before the precincts’ materials were delivered to election officials.