Light voter turnout expected next week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Staff Writer

June 19, 2000 10 PM

Although few are expected to notice, voters will again head to the polls next week.

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June 27 is the day for the primary runoff elections and turnout is predicted to be at a minimum.

As a matter of fact, Secretary of State Jim Bennett has predicted less than 10 percent and "probably closer to 5 percent" of Alabama’s 2.3 million voters will cast ballots in the runoffs.

Bennett said a record low in turnout would not surprise him. At this time, the record low turnout was set in March when only 7 percent of the state’s voters went to the polls in the special eletion on the franchise tax constitutional amendment.

Pike County’s numbers are not expected to be all that high, either.

Only 25 percent of the 17,775 registered voters in Pike County voted in the Democratic and Republican Primaries on June 6. But, that figure was five percent better than the state average for that election.

Voter apathy has become the norm, rather than the exception.

"People aren’t convinced it matters," said Dr. James Joyner, assistant professor of criminal justice and social science at Troy State University.

He also relates voter apathy to "so many elections."

Regarding the most recent election, Joyner said the low turnout can be attributed to no race people viewed as "important," such as a presidential or gubernatorial race.

As a political scientist, he was discouraged by the race for Supreme Court Justice because he knew of Roy Moore only because of the Ten Commandments issue, knew little of Harold See, had only brief knowledge of Pam Baschab and knew nothing of Wayne Thorn.

And, if someone who studies elections doesn’t know these candidates, "your average voter" doesn’t either, Joyner said.

Bennett has said turnout for the runoffs will be driven by lacal races because the Democratic Party has no statewide offices and the Republican Party only has two.

Statewide, there will be two Republican runoffs and a Democratic runoff. Locally, three Democratic runoffs will determine who will be on the Nov. 7 General Election ballot.

The GOP runoff for the Court of Civil Appeals puts Ralph Long against Craig Pittman. Long, 47, is a Hoover policeman and attorney and the son of state Criminal Appeals Court Judge Frank Long. Pittman, 43, is a Mobile attorney who represented the state docks during Gov. Fob James’ administration.

Greg Shaw, a 43-year-old staff attorney at the Alabama Supreme Court, will face 36-year-old Tony Riley, a Muscle Shoals attorney, in the Republican runoff for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Both are making their first bid for public office in this race.

The District 5 State Board of Education race is also in a runoff on the Democratic ticket. Ella Beatrice Bell, 52, is a state mental health agency employee from Montgomery. She will face Latosha Brown, 30, the director of the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement in Selma.

On the local level, all the runoffs are on the Democratic ticket.

Voters in Pike County Commission District 4 will vote to decide between incumbent Ray Goodson and Terry Sneed. Goodson received 49.70 percent of the votes to make it a runoff with Sneed, who garnered 33.01 percent on June 6.

Incumbent Charlie Harris is running for re-election to the Pike County Commission District 5 seat and will face Jeff Baker in the runoff. Harris received 49.94 percent of the votes on June 6 with Baker coming in second with 27.35 percent of the votes.

The Pike County Board of Education District 5 race results forced a runoff between incumbent Willo D. Baker, who received 40.56 percent of the vote and herbert Reynolds, who received 30.99 percent.

As a reminder, Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone said not all Pike County voters will have a local race on which to vote.

Runoffs are held when no candidate in a primary race gets 50 percent of the vote plus one. The top two candidates advance to a runoff, where the winner must have a majority.

Only 11 states conduct primary runoffs: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Morth Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.