While voter turnout is typically high during years that county and state offices are up for grabs, absentee voting — one indicator of turnout — hasn’t quite matched expectations.
Less than two weeks before the Aug. 6 primaries, fewer than 400 people have casted ballots in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties combined, according to local election officials.
“It’s kind of low right now,” said Lowndes County Circuit Clerk Teresa Barksdale.
In Lowndes County, 150 people had voted by absentee ballot as of Tuesday. In Oktibbeha County, there have been 201 absentee ballots cast.
“We’re not as busy as I thought we’d be,” said Oktibbeha County Deputy Circuit Clerk Sheryl Elmore.
Barksdale said that while the absentee votes to date are a bit lower than expected, she doesn’t believe that will mean a low turnout for the Aug. 6 primaries or the Nov. 5 general election.
“I expect absentee voting will pick up as we get closer to the primary,” she said. “A lot of people are on vacation and schools haven’t started. I still think we’ll have a good turnout for both the primaries and the general election.”
In Oktibbeha County there’s a considerable buzz surrounding the races for governor and sheriff, but that interest has yet to show up in the absentee voting, Elmore said.
“Even though there’s a lot of talk about the governor’s race, especially on the Republican side, and the sheriff’s race, we’ve only about half the absentee votes we had at this time four years ago,” she said.
Elmore said that while many county races are uncontested in the Aug. 6 primary and some voters may simply wait until the November general election, she’s still not sure how to account for the low number of absentee votes.
“I really don’t have the answer,” she said. “But we do have a week-and-a-half left, and usually you see a lot more absentee votes come during the last two weeks. It may pick up, but so far, it’s been lower than expected.”
Voters have until Aug. 3 to cast absentee ballots. They can cast absentee votes in the circuit clerk offices from 8 a.m. -5 p.m. All circuit clerk’s offices in the state will also be open from 8 a.m.-noon on July 7 and Aug. 3., the last day people can vote by absentee in person.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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