Extremely low voter turnout in Pike County
Published 12:00 am Monday, May 6, 2002
JESSICA S. CAIN
As expected, there was a low voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election.
According to Probate Judge Bill Stone, 3,696 people voted out of 16,211 registered voters, resulting in a 23 percent voter turnout.
Aside from a couple of power outages and some technical problems, Stone said "nothing of consequence" happened during the day.
The afternoon thunderstorm resulted in two power outages, but the power was only out "momentarily" and did not slow down or halt voting procedures, Stone said.
"Fortunately, our polling officials were trained for such a situation. Contrary to the fear of the electricity going out, we never stopped voting. Our machinery is primarily powered by electricity, so they just compiled after the electricity came back on.
"Generally speaking, it was a good election," Stone said.
Although the redistricting was not as big of a problem as Stone feared, the new lines will still take some getting used to.
"A lot of people were inconvenienced because they had to drive somewhere they were not accustomed to. That will just take a little getting used to," Stone said.
The precincts in Pike County were recently redesigned in accordance with Alabama law. Redistricting is done every ten years.
"I’m some what disappointed that more people didn’t decide to get out and vote, because there were some very important legislation that was decided today," said Alabama Rep. Allan Boothe.
Earl Helms worked the poles in Precinct 14, which was held at the Brundidge-Haisten Building, and he said "not quiet one-fourth" of registered voters voted there.
"People just weren’t interested in it. There weren’t any local races and people just aren’t interested in state races," Helms said.
Helms said there were no problems at his poll and "it was a good day."
Officials described voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary election as being "light."
Sheriff Russell Thomas attributes the poor turnout to the bipartisan ballots that he said tends to discourage voters.
"In the primary you are limited. We’re pretty much a two-party state, and I hope that will change with time. People don’t like to be declared a Democrat or Republican. They don’t like other people to know.
"I hope legislature will look into that, so you can go in and get a ballot and not have to declare one or the other," Thomas said.
The heavy downpour during the time that many potential voters would be getting off of work is probably another discouragement, Thomas said.
"This rain definitely did not help with the turnout. Between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. is when most people are getting off from work and planned to go vote," he said.
According to Thomas, there was "a minor problem or two during the day."
Stubborn machinery and tabulation problems made the morning less than smooth, but "everything was up and running smoothly" after technicians fixed the problems, Thomas said.
There was a 45 percent difference between the Democratic and Republican turnout in Pike County with the Republicans outnumbering the Democrats.
Democrats drew 1,658 and Republicans drew 2,019.
"Aside from voter turnout being very light, the results were pretty close to the polls," said Lawerence Bowdin, chairman for the Pike County Republican party.
After considering previous years, Bowdin said he was not surprised there was a stronger Republican turnout.
"We are always apprehensive, but it is not a total surprise. Beginning tomorrow morning, our party will really start pushing strong for our candidate.
"We were looking for somebody to defeat Governor Siegelman, and I think Riley will be just the man to do that," Bowdin said.
"Certainly, I would like to see things return to how they used to be. The low turnout has a lot to do with the general apathy of society. It would great to see more people get involved," said John Key, chairman for the Pike County Democratic party.
Key remembers when there was at least a 50 percent voter turnout back in the 70s and 80s.
Key was not surprised that the Democrat party was outnumbered since that has been the trend lately. However, he is not going to bet on the gubernatorial race just yet.
"We just have to wait and see how these things turnout. A lot of things can happen between now and November.
This apathy has also leaked into the political education of voters.
"In a lot cases, voters lack knowledge of the candidate and vote based on signs of publicity," Key said.
"Pike County is very divided. Next year, it may be just the opposite," Stone said.