By Leesha Faulkner
Northeast Mississippi circuit clerks are predicting a generally fair turnout for Tuesday’s general election, even though the incumbents in the most notable contests are expected to win easily.
The wider interest comes from a couple of judicial elections and, in many counties, contested school board races.
Although both say they are not taking their opponents lightly, Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, and Sen. Trent Lott of Pascagoula are expected to win easily. Wicker faces Democrat Ken Hurt and Libertarian Harold Taylor. Lott is being challenged by state Rep. Erik Fleming, a Democrat from Madison.
Northeast Mississippians also will fill new circuit and chancery judgeships, created in 2005 to ease the caseload in the area. In Alcorn County, District 1 voters will choose a new supervisor.
Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
In Lee County, the region’s most populated county, Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin says turnout can be as unpredictable as the weather.
“It’s just hard to say,” she said. “I’d like to think it’s going to be good.”
Those counties expecting heavier turnouts have local contested races, which make for greater interest among most voters.
Here’s how some other circuit clerks predict the turnout:
n Clerk Carol Gates says she hopes for a “fairly good” turnout of her 16,000 registered voters. So far, she has seen 40 absentee voters, which is more than Itawamba County had during the June primaries.
“I think the school board races might bring them out,” she said.
Two races for Itawamba County School Board seats are opposed, including District 3, which sees incumbent Bobby D. Irving facing challengers Emily Smith Collins and Harold Martin. In the District 4 School Board race incumbent Clara Brown is challenged by Kevin Nolan.
n Interest in absentee voting picked up last week in Monroe County, reported Circuit Clerk Judy Butler. “It’s definitely better than in the June primaries,” she said. By early Friday, 66 people had voted absentee, compared with only three five months ago. The county has 25,000 registered voters.
Butler attributes the voter interest to school board races that include District 3 incumbent Patsy Huskey against Ann Price; Barry Thompson is unopposed in District 4 and in District 5 Linda Bickerstaff and Margaret Pope are vying for a new seat created by redistricting.
n A contested 16th Circuit Court District judge’s race between incumbent Jim Kitchens and challenger Ray Perkins is drawing a good bit of interest, according to Circuit Clerk Angie McGinnis. Kitchens has served one term. Perkins is an attorney and vice mayor of Starkville.
The county has 26,000 registered voters, and as of late in the week, 275 had voted absentee ballots. In a large election, that number could go as high as 600, McGinnis said. “I could wind up with 350,” she said, noting that walk-in absentee voting ended Saturday and mail-in absentees haven’t been counted.
n Voting’s picking up, observes Circuit Clerk Tracy Robinson, who first thought otherwise. “In the last three days, we’ve been swamped by absentee voters,” Robinson said late last week.
The county has 17,598 registered voters and already close to 150 of them have voted absentee.
Three challenged Pontotoc School Board races seem to be drawing interest – in District 3 in which incumbent Ann Carter faces challenger Cathy McCoy; District 4 sees incumbent Randy Tutor challenged by J.D. Adams; and District 5 Allen Roye, the incumbent appointed to fill out an unexpired term, will face Tabby Crew Vaughn.
n Absentee voting also has picked up here, said Circuit Clerk Phylllis Stafford, who earlier hadn’t predicted much of a turnout.
After all, local school board members running for office are unopposed. But absentee voting picked up last week, 80 out of Union County’s 16,000 registered voters.
n Late last week, Lee County’s Loftin had seen 230 absentee ballots. That’s on the low side if you consider the 2,000 cast during the 1994 presidential election.
But if you consider the six absentee ballots cast during the June primaries, then Lee County might have a “fair turnout” of its 52,000 registered voters, she said.
n Lafayette County Circuit Clerk Mary Alice Busby just won’t hazard a guess as to how many people might vote Tuesday. So far, 330 absentee ballots have been cast. Lafayette County has 20,000 registered voters.
Busby said, “You just can’t tell. I thought last time we wouldn’t have had very many vote, and we had more than I expected.”
Contact Daily Journal county-courts reporter Leesha Faulkner at 678-1590 or email@example.com