Less than half of registered voters cast ballot in city race

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Dorothy Drouillard casts her vote Tuesday morning at the Elks Lodge on Lower Woodville Road. Polls are open until 7 p.m. today.

NATCHEZ — Other than a slight programming error with one electronic polling machine, election officials said the major problem with Tuesday’s primary election was the turnout — or lack thereof.

With only 42 percent of registered Natchez voters hitting the polls Tuesday, election commission chairman Larry Gardner said he was shocked at just how low the voter turnout actually was.

ROD GUAJARDO / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Beth Smith casts her vote Tuesday morning at the Elks Lodge on Lower Woodville Road. Long lines weren't an issue Tuesday morning at several polling locations.

“Those are terrible numbers for an election that will determine how the city is going to be run for the next four years,” Gardner said. “I’m pretty disappointed.”

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Overall, only 4,556 votes were cast of the 10,661 registered voters.

In the mayoral election, 4,496 votes were cast.

In the city alderman Ward 1 election, a total of 710 votes were cast.

In the city alderman Ward 3 election, a total of 1,011 votes were cast.

In elections with few races on the ballot, low numbers can be expected, Gardner said.

But the amount of candidates and offices on this ballot should have been enough to attract more voters, Gardner said.

“We thought it would be a good turnout because you have a large number of candidates across all six wards, a contested city clerk race and a contested mayor’s race that’s been pretty heated,” Gardner said. “We really thought that would give good voter turnout, but when we started seeing the absentee ballots being low, we changed our mindset on that.”

Throughout the day, lines at polling locations were not an issue for voters casting ballots across the six different wards.

Ward 1 voter Ethel L. Dixon casted her vote at the city council chambers for Ward 1 Alderman incumbent Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis.

Dixon, a Buckner Avenue resident, said she supports Mathis because Mathis has fought hard to get the drainage problems on Buckner fixed.

“For years we’ve been trying to get drainage fixed,” Dixon said. “(Mathis) is just now getting us what we really need, and I think she needs to stay in there another four years to finish it.”

Ward 5 voter Heather Lewis said the mayoral election brought her to the polls today.

“I think Natchez is moving in the right direction,” Lewis said. “It’s time to make the right decision.”

Lewis said she was expecting a runoff between two mayoral candidates, and that she would definitely be back to vote in that election as well.

The mayoral runoff election will be May 15.

All election preparation and procedures are handled the same for a runoff, except for fewer machines at the polling locations, Gardner said.

Ward 3 voter Dorothy Drouillard said she’s been in Natchez for 10 years and has gotten to know the candidates over the years.

“The mayoral race brought us out today, but I’m interested in all the races,” Drouillard said. “We’ve gotten to know the candidates, and we’re looking forward to seeing the outcome.”