Some expect low black voter turnout

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NATCHEZ — Natchez polling places will be open from 7 to 7 today, but some fear one portion of the voting community simply won’t be represented on the voter rolls.

With no black candidates and an already defeated black incumbent mayor, black voters may not have the motivation to get out and vote, election officials said.

Overall turnout is expected to be lower than in the May primary, elections commissioner Larry Gardner said.

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Only 338 absentee votes were cast — down from 376 in the primary.

“If you’ve got a low absentee vote, you’re probably going to have a low election, too,” Gardner said.

And that low turnout may be felt most in Ward 2, a predominately black ward.

Only five absentee ballots were cast in Ward 2.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Ricky” Gray who was re-elected by a landslide in the first primary, said the voters in his ward are disappointed that Mayor Phillip West lost in the primary.

“It’s going to be a decrease in the total number of people going to the polls, but I think they might surprise some people,” Gray said.

“I’ve been encouraging the people in my ward to go out and vote,” he said.

Gardner said he too thought black turnout would be small.

“There’s not a lot of reason for them to get out and vote because all their horses in their race have either won or lost,” Gardner said. “I think that’s going to cut down a good bit of the voting.”

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said he expects only 30 to 45 percent turnout.

Turnout in the first primary was 45 percent.

But the grim predictions didn’t stop mayoral candidates Chick Graning and Jake Middleton from pounding the pavement one last time Monday.

Both candidates and their suppoerters were out in force campaigning, traversing neighborhoods and even greeting Wal-Mart customers.

Middleton defeated West in the Democratic primary by a little more than 200 votes.

The only other races on the ballot are in Wards 3 and 5.

Incumbent candidate Bob Pollard, running as a Republican, will be facing Democratic candidate Gwen Ball for Ward 3 alderman.

Democrat Mark Fortenbery will face Republican Charles Zuccaro in Ward 5.

Also on the ballot will be the hotel assessment — a $2 per occupied room tax increase.

The funds generated from the tax would be used to market Natchez and would be governed by a committee.

Residents of Ward 1 will vote in the City Council Chambers, Ward 2 at Frazier Primary, Ward 3 at Elks Lodge, Ward 4 at the Union Hall on Gayosa Avenue, Ward 5 at the National Guard Armory and Ward 6 at the Canteen at Duncan Park.