As candidates, issues and technology changed over the past decade in Oktibbeha County, Myles Carpenter remained a constant figure in local elections.
After 10 years as an election commissioner and additional time as a poll worker, Carpenter, 79, will again help guide the county through Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries.
Carpenter, four other commissioners – each Oktibbeha County district elects its own election commissioner — and about 100 poll workers have attended pre-election training sessions and run logistical testing on each precinct’s voting machines.
Now, they prepare for tomorrow’s long hours at the polls.
The Dispatch sat down with Carpenter Friday for a brief question-and-answer session while the county ran logistics and accuracy tests on numerous machines lining the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Annex’s walls.
Q: What made you decide to run for your election commissioner’s seat?
I really enjoyed working as a poll worker in several elections. I filled an expired term and continued to want to do the job. I love seeing people come out to the polls and vote. We election commissioners go around on Election Day and visit all the county precincts. I really enjoy seeing people standing in line wanting to do what is patriotic, and I also enjoy working with the poll workers.
Q: You’ve seen Oktibbeha County transition from paper ballots to voting machines. Do you still prefer the old school paper ballots?
It’s hard to beat the paper ballots when you have a good tabulator at the end. That was one of the problems we used to have.
Q: What’s the most stressful part of your job?
It’s getting every voting machine set up and programmed – all the memory cards, encoders and so on. We have to make sure the machines are at the point where we feel like they’re going to work like they’re going to on Election Day, and there are a lot of machines. There’s also Election Day’s long hours.
Q: Voter turnout is historically low for primaries. What can we do to increase it?
I don’t know if I have an answer. Certain elections will bring people out, but it’s unfortunate that even the weather can stop someone from going out to vote.
Q: Can you predict the percentage of voter turnout for Tuesday?
If I had to guess, I’d say 20 percent to 25 percent. There’s a lot of interest particularly in the Republican Senate Primary.
Q: When do county precincts see its largest voting numbers?
There’s generally a line already formed at 7 a.m., a pretty good rush at noon with people out for lunch and finally another push about 4-5 p.m. with those getting off work.
Q: This is the first election with the state’s voter ID rules in effect. Do you foresee any problems with its implementation?
The last I heard, fewer than 20 people came in to get a voter ID card. You have to have ID for almost everything else you do in life. It will probably cut out a little bit of voter fraud in the state, but we haven’t had a significant problem with it here in our county.
Q: How much longer will you serve as an election commissioner?
This will probably be my last term, but who knows if I stay in good health. I really like serving.
Oktibbeha County’s 21 precincts open 7 a.m. Tuesday and close 12 hours later.
The precincts and their locations are as follows:
West Starkville: National Guard Armory, Miss. Highway 12 West;
North Longview: Longview Volunteer Fire Department, 2168 Miss. Highway 12 West;
South Adaton: Adaton Baptist Church, 1975 U.S. Highway 82 West;
Self Creek/Double Springs: Turner Road fire station, 3407 Miss. Highway 82 West;
Hickory Grove/Southeast: East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department, Old Highway 82 East;
North Starkville II: Boardtown Village, 905 N. Montgomery St.;
Northeast Starkville: Humphrey Coliseum, 55 Coliseum Boulevard;
Osborn: 16th Section Road fire station;
Bell School House: Bell School House Volunteer Fire Department, 2221 Miss. Highway 389;
Center Grove/North Adaton: Adaton Volunteer Fire Department, 2237 Reed Road;
East Starkville: Humphrey Coliseum, 55 Coliseum Boulevard;
Maben: Maben Volunteer Fire Department, 4026 2nd Ave.;
North Starkville III: Starkville Fire Department Station No. 3, 102 W Garrard Road;
South Starkville: Starkville Sportsplex Activities Building, 405 Lynn Lane;
South Longview: Longview Volunteer Fire Department, 2168 Miss. Highway 12 West;
Craig Springs/South Bradley: Craig Springs Volunteer Fire Department, 2199 Craig Springs Road;
Sturgis/North Bradley: Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department, 2729 Montgomery St.;
Central Starkville: Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Annex, 108 W Main St.;
Gillespie: Gillespie Street Center, 610 E Gillespie St.;
Oktoc: Oktoc Volunteer Fire Department, Oktoc Road;
Sessums: Sessums Volunteer Fire Department, 3100 Turkey Creek Road.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch