ELECTION UPDATE: Voter turnout lower than primaries

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Aldermen candidates, clockwise from top left, Sarah Smith, Forrest Foster, Bob Pollard and Dan Dillard were braving the heat to welcome voters to the polls Tuesday morning.

NATCHEZ — With voter turnout at just 22.8 percent as of 3 p.m., Election Commissioner Larry Gardner said it may be nearly impossible to get voter turnout anywhere close to what it was in the first and second Democratic primaries.

“It will take a miracle,” Gardner said.

Polls close at 7 p.m.

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Gardner said he hopes that there is a tremendous push after voters get off work this evening to push voter turnout up to at least 40 percent, a still disappointing number, he said.

“I don’t know what you can do to get people out to vote,” Gardner said. “We’ve talked about this, people should understand the importance of this election. This is the leadership of this community for the next four years.”

Overall turnout was 42 percent for the city’s Democratic primary and 45.7 percent for the Democratic runoff between Larry L. “Butch” Brown and Phillip West.

Brown is facing off against independent Bill Furlow today in the mayoral race. Democrat Sarah Carter Smith is challenging Republican incumbent Bob Pollard for the Ward 3 Alderman seat. Independent Forrest Foster is challenging Ward 6 Alderman incumbent Dan Dillard, a Democrat.

But it is not the candidates that several voters say is bringing them to the polls today, it is their civic duty.

Retired Adams County sheriff Tommy Ferrell and his wife, Carole, said they come out to Elks Lodge vote in every election.

“(Voting) is one of your many civic duties, just like jury duty and others,” Ferrell said. “If you’re registered to vote, you’re expected to perform those duties. For me, it’s mandatory.”

Ferrell also said he believes those who do not vote do not have the right to criticize government.

“You can’t complain if you haven’t done your civic duty,” he said.

Ward 3 resident Amy Gamberi said she, too, votes in every election, regardless of who is running, but she said she came out to the polls today to support Larry L. “Butch” Brown.

“I think it’s neat that Butch is trying to come back and continue to do good for Natchez,” Gamberi said. “He obviously sees the need to come back.”

Over at Duncan Park, Carrie Lambert, former director the Natchez Downtown Development Association hired by Bill Furlow when he was president of the NDDA, said she wants to see a new face sitting in the mayor’s chair at City Hall. Lambert has been camped out in the heat today under a tent with Furlow supporter Kimberly Queen waving signs at voters coming to vote.

Lambert and Queen say Furlow is a “man of the people,” who is willing to meet anyone and wants to hear their problems.

“I know he can get the job done,” Lambert said. “He’s very inclusive, he wants to bring everybody together, and that is what we need. He is an expert at communications, and I believe he can bring our community together.”

Furlow said he has been driving around the city reminding people to vote and giving voters rides to the polls.

“We have just been getting the vote out,” Furlow said. “We’ve run into some people who didn’t even know there was an election today, so we’re giving them a ride if they need it, or at the least, getting their promise that they’ll go vote.”

Furlow said he feels good so far, but not overly confident.

“I’m not making any predictions, and I’m not making any wagers,” he said.

Brown said he has been making the rounds to the polls about every hour visiting the poll workers and making sure everything is going smoothly. He said he feels good so far today, but he said he is not sure why voters are not showing up at the polls.

“(Turnout) is not something were particularly proud of,” Brown said. “But after we have had to run three times, I think people might just be tired of going to vote.”

Pollard, Smith, Dillard and Foster have been camped out at their respective wards’ polling places with their family and friends since the early morning waving signs and making their faces seen.

Voter turnout as of 3 p.m. is:

Ward 1: 17.7 percent, 297 votes out of 1,675 registered voters

Ward 2: 11.8 percent, 217 votes out 1,826 registered voters

Ward 3: 30.5 percent, 624 votes out of 2,043 registered voters

Ward 4: 16.7 percent, 276 votes out of 1,653 registered voters

Ward 5: 17.15 percent, 299 votes out of 1,743 registered voters

Ward 6: 25 percent, 439 votes out of 1,756 registered voters