By Eddie West
Voter turnout for the county’s first ever Republican and Democratic primary elections was exceptionally low.
A total of 3,751 residents participated in the election which may seem like a considerable number of voters in a county of less than twenty thousand people.
However, the county has approximately 12,633 registered voters, meaning only 29.69 of eligible voters participated in the primary elections.
There is a lengthy list of factors which likely contributed to the low turnout.
At the county level, primary elections are new to voters and there is still confusion among some residents.
Meanwhile, some residents may have boycotted the election because they either vote for Independent candidates and none were on the ballot.
Others may have boycotted the primary elections because they feel it was not a feasible use of taxpayer dollars as residents are asking governments to make budget cuts. Basically, because of the primary elections, voters will be going to the polls twice (primary election and August County General Election) this year to seat their county officials, instead of the one traditional election which has been held in past years.
Meanwhile, others may have skipped the primary election due to lack of candidates or few contested races.
In addition, a number of Democrats may have bypassed the election because there were only two Democratic candidates on the ballot.
County races typically draw most residents to the polls.
Two of the county’s top offices, which tend to draw the most voters to the polls, is sheriff and county mayor races when contested.
Both races were contested and neither face an Independent candidate in August.
The sheriff’s seat and the county mayor’ seat was last up for election in 2018.
Looking back at that election, 5,251 residents voted in the sheriff’s race. In this month’s primary election, 3,616 residents voted in the sheriff’s race this month.
Also, in the 2018, there were 5,371 residents who voted in the race for county mayor’s race. In this month’s election, there were 3,479 votes cast.
Through the years, the number of residents voting in county general elections has been declining, particularly since 2006.
With the exception of general sessions judge, which is elected every eight years, full-time county offices are elected every four years.
In 2018, there were 5,472 residents who voted in the August County General Election or 47.25 percent of registered voters.
In the 2014 August County General Election, there were 5,419 or 51.65 percent of registered voters participated in the election.
Here’s where a dramatic decline occurs.
In the 2010 August County General Election, there were 6,852 or 53.23 percent of registered voters participated in the election. In the 2006 August County General Election, there were 7,11o or 55.12 percent of registered voters participated in the election.
Political signs for candidates who won their primary election races will remain up even though some no longer face an opponent. The names of winners in the Democratic and Republican primary elections will be on the ballot in the August County General Election along with Independent candidates.
During the August election, residents can cross political party lines to vote for the candidate of their choice. Residents can vote for a Republican, Democratic or Independent candidate in the August election.
Following a trend, more voters voted early in the primary elections than voted on election day.
A total of 2,020 residents voted early. Meanwhile, 33 voted by absentee ballot and 1,698 voted on the day of the election.