Voter turn-out above average for county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Voter registration in Butler County is around 14,000, and approximately 40 percent of those registered to vote turned out for the June primary, according to Butler County Circuit Clerk Allen Stephenson.

He said that a little over 40 percent turned out to vote, which is better than the 30 percent prediction statewide. Stephenson said the heated competitions on the primary ballots most likely contributed to the large turn-out.

"I think the sheriff's race had an impact on pushing it up another 10 percent," he said. "I think a lot of people went to the polls and I think a lot of people voted Democratic this time who might have voted Republican had there not been some heated races on the Democratic side of the ballot. I don't think it was a surprise that the turn-out was a little more than what was expected."

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He said there are many different excuses given for individuals' decisions not to vote. "There are numbers of excuses that we hear many times such as I don't think my vote is going to make a difference,' but the Presidential election showed that one vote does matter," Stephenson said. "A lot of people say they are too busy or they work out of town and can't get back in time to vote."

He did say, however, that the number of absentee ballots sent in was almost double the amount expected in the election. "We did have over 400 absentee ballots so a lot of people did make an effort," Stephenson said. "Those who work out of town and knew they wouldn't be able to be here between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. did make an effort to vote absentee so I was pleased that so many people did do that. I had expected around 250 absentee ballots and we ended up with over 400, so that was an indication beforehand that there was a pretty good turnout."

Stephenson added that there was some confusion over the voting situation, with each voter having to choose between the Democratic and Republican ballots. "Generally, the primary which causes the confusion comes after the people have voted in a general election two years prior in which you can vote either for democrats or republicans, independents or whoever, so people get confused by that," he said. "We always have the primary process that leads up to the general election in November."

Former Probate Judge Mack Russell, who was elected Butler County's new district judge, said he also thought the turnout was impressive.

"We had a wonderful voter turnout," he said. "I think that a lot of people had their favorites for sheriff and there were a lot of votes spread out across the whole county. I appreciate everybody's help and voter turnout was very good."

He said he heard several complaints about voters having to choose between the Democratic and Republic ballots.

"I had a lot of people call and complain about that and the only people who can change that is the legislature. That's the law in the state of Alabama, so if somebody is concerned, they can let their legislator know; let Charles Newton or Wendell Mitchell know their concern and maybe something can move."

Russell said that overall, he thought the turnout was good, as were the results.

"It was a very nice turnout and I am very pleased with the results," Russell added.

Stephenson said he also was happy with the turnout and said he feels it is a good indication that the voters of Butler County are concerned with the issues. "I am pleased that so many people decided to participate in the system and it's a sign that the people are concerned about the future of the county."