Voter Participation Consistent During Primary

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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Voter participation stayed consistent on Super Tuesday despite some contentious local races. According to Paul Story, the Chambers County Probate Judge and election manager, voter participation during the primary last Tuesday was 22.4 percent.

“So there’s normally about a 20-25% turnout anyway, and a primary, so I will say that for a rainy day, there was a fair turnout,” Story said.

In Chambers County, there are 26,248 registered voters and there were 5,900 ballots cast last week. The precincts were all around that 20th percentile.

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The largest precinct, the Valley Sportsplex, saw all three of the local races: probate judge, school superintendent, which are both county races, and the District 1 School Board race.

Voters at Valley and the Huguley precinct, as well as absentee residents of those areas, were able to vote in District 1 if they requested a democratic ballot.

Finch won the absentee votes 15 to 1, both candidates got a vote a piece at Huguley, however, Newton won the race 146 to 96 at the Sportsplex. There is one Republican candidate, Carolyn Danyel Peters, meaning Newton will run against her for the school board seat in November. The Valley precinct would be the biggest win of the night for all races.

“The Valley precinct is the largest precinct with over 9,000 registered voters,” Story said. “At 10,000 voters is when the state secretary of state’s office would look into requesting the judge to split that precinct if it gets over 10,000.”

On the Republican ballot, the superintendent and probate judge race were not as close. Story won all 17 precincts, including absentee voting, over competitor Troy Davis, to secure his second term as probate judge. 

Perhaps the most high-profile race of the night was the superintendent race between incumbent Dr. Casey Chambley and Dr. Sharon Weldon.

In a surprise upset, Weldon received 60.75 percent of the votes, winning every precinct, except two, Mount Olive and Standing Rock, which Chambley won by 12 and 22 votes respectively.

Weldon did particularly well at the LaFayette precinct getting 429 votes to Chambley’s 95.

Weldon will compete for the superintendent position outright in November against the democratic contender, Winford Ashmore.

The county has many small precincts, including two new precincts, Mountain Springs and Lanier. Despite the new locations, turnout stayed about the same for both precincts.

“Those areas have a smaller populace but that populace does tend to be more involved in politics. So they had about the same turnout as normal because both precincts moved within two minutes of their original placement. So there wasn’t a major displacement for the voters,” Story said. 

While primary elections tend to have fairly low turnout compared to general elections, Story said even during general elections, usually around 30 percent of voters come out to the polls.

“The most we’ve ever seen was in the last presidential election and that was roughly 50%. And I think that was a national standard that particular time because there was so much upset in the national political realm,” Story said.

Story hopes to use his second term as an election manager, a role he had to hand off on Tuesday due to the fact Story was a candidate, to increase voter participation.

After learning he had won on Tuesday, VTN filmed an interview with Story where he said, “I would like to do some basic election day training in the community… as well as mock elections at the schools to assist those coming of age to become a registered voter.”

However, when talking about voter participation this week, Story said he was overall pleased with the turnout considering the rainy weather that day.

“You always wish there would be more [participation] because it is a right and a privilege to vote, we want people to exercise that right. So certainly, I would love to see a greater percentage each and every election,” Story said. “Everybody says ‘Oh is just one vote,’ I have seen races in our region have been determined by a few votes.”