Voters head to the polls Tuesday

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By James Roberts

With plenty of local flavor on the ballot, turnout is expected to be decent for tomorrow's primary election.

Based on previous primaries, Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney predicts a 39 percent voter turnout - about 6,500 voters.

"But, I hope we have more. We need everyone to go out and go vote," Carney said.

Eight years ago, 36 percent of the voters turned out for a similar ballot. Four years ago, 42 percent showed up to cast votes on a ballot that was missing a mayoral primary.

"The Democratic county judge's race will generate some interest and we do have a mayor's race this time," Carney said.

Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone standing in line at 6 p.m. will still get to vote.

Election results are expected by 7:15 p.m., Carney said.

Voters will once again use the paper ballot, Carney said. Voters will fill in the box beside their chosen candidates' names on the ballot and then scan that ballot using an automatic ballot reader.

The process has safeguards in place to prevent voters from making mistakes. If a voter doesn't fill in a box or marks more than one box on any particular race, the machine will not accept the ballot.

Depending on the precinct, there will be four to eight privacy panels set up.

Each precinct will still have one electronic machine for voters with disabilities or voters who don't want to vote by paper ballot.

The machine also serves as a backup.

"It's handy if one of the scanners does malfunction," Carney said. "They can vote on the E-Slate until we can get out there."

There are 16,625 registered voters in Taylor County. Of those, 8,108 are Democrats, 7,795 are Republicans and 722 are registered as other parties.

Carney said that there has been discussion among lawmakers about allowing Independents to vote in primaries.

"I do believe one of the days we'll see that," Carney said.

Carney said some states already allow it, such as West Virginia. However, Independent voters must vote strictly Republican or Democrat during the primary.

Carney reminders voters that they must vote their party line in the primary. Voters will be asked if they are registered as Democrat, Republican or as an Independent so that they can be given the correct ballot. Independent voters will only see the mayor's race on their ballots.

"We will make every effort to give them the right ballot, but you should check your ballot over and make sure things are right before you vote."

So far, absentee voting rates are well below the last similar primary four years ago.

In 2006, 196 people voted by paper absentee, Carney said. This year, 182 paper ballots were mailed to voters and 140 were returned. The deadline to return the ballots was May 11.

Today is the last day to vote absentee by machine, Carney said. In 2006, 190 voted on the machine. So far this year, 103 have voted.

"We'll have a pretty good rush in here [today], but we won't make 190," he said.

Eligible voters have until 4:30 today.

Those who can vote absentee on the machine include a student who temporarily lives outside the county, military personnel and their dependents, U.S. citizens living overseas, a voter having surgery that will require hospitalization on the day of the election and their spouse, precinct election officers serving in a precinct other than that in which they are registered, members of the county or state boards of elections, deputy county clerks and women in their last trimester of pregnancy.

With the exception of military personnel confined to a base within the county and those hospitalized, all absentee voters must be outside the county on the day of the election.

The ballot

The most populated race is that of U.S. Senator. On the Republican ticket, voters will chose from Gurley L. Martin, Rand Paul, Jon J. Scribner, John Stephenson and C.M. "Trey" Grayson. Bill Johnson will appear on the ballot, though he has withdrawn from the race. Votes for Johnson will not count.

On the Democratic ticket, voters will choose from Jack Conway, Daniel Mongiardo, Darlene F. Price, Maurice M. Sweeney and James Buckmaster.

Incumbent Eddie Rogers was the lone Democrat to file for the Taylor County judge/executive's office. He advances directly to the November election and will face the winner of the Republican primary race between Greg Gribbins and Gary Osborne.

The race to fill retiring Sheriff John Shipp's post will have a Republican and Democratic primary.

On the Republican ticket, Timothy "Sparky" Cash and William "Bill" Walsh square off while Allen Newton and Willard "Hank" Harris seek the Democratic nod.

The jailer's race will only have a Democratic primary as Eddie "Hack" Marcum was the only Republican candidate to file. Incumbent Rick Benningfield will defend his post from Nick Alsager.

On the non-partisan mayoral ticket, all voters within the City limits, regardless of party affiliation, will have three candidates to choose from.

Incumbent Brenda Allen, Paul Harmon and Tony Young are seeking the City's top position. The two candidates earning the most votes advance to the general election in November.

In the 2nd District magistrate's race, Incumbent John D. Gaines will face Jeneal "Hooter" Burkhead on the primary's Democratic ticket. One will advance to the primary election in November and face lone Republican Orville Newton.

In the 3rd District magistrate's race, Incumbent Milford H. Lowe, Larry Barnes, Darrell W. Cox and Steve Hayden will face off on the Democratic ticket. Republicans Tommy Corbin, James E. Cochran and William "Bill" Kingdollar will battle for their party's nod. The winner of each primary race will face off in November's general election.

In the 4th District magistrate's race, Incumbent Matt Pendleton and Gary Isaacs will face off on the Republican ticket. Democrats Terry Hughes, Kenneth Minor and Byron Sanders will battle for their party's nod. The winners of each primary race will face off in November's general election.

In the 5th District magistrate's race, Incumbent Ed Gorin and Angie Jo Johnson will face off on the Republican ticket. Democrats Thomas "Red" Goff, Adolphus Holland and Tony Harris will seek their party's nod. The winner of each primary race will face off in November's general election.

In the 6th District magistrate's race, Democrats Nevin Price, Gary Porter and Gerald Ray Smith will face off on their party's ticket. The winner of that primary race will face lone Republican candidate incumbent Richard A. Phillips in the November general election.

Constable candidates in four of the county's six districts will face opposition in the May primary, while candidates in the 2nd and 3rd districts will head straight to the November general election.

In the 1st District constable's race, Republican incumbent Robert Young will face challengers Schuyler Denham and Ed Pike in the May primary. The winner of that race will serve as 1st District constable.

In the 4th District constable's race, Democrat incumbent Marshall D. Graham will face challenger George "Junior" Ratcliff in the primary. The winner will face Republican candidate Chris Wingler in November.

In the 5th District constable's race, Democrat incumbent Wayne Parson faces opposition from two candidates in May - Chester "Check" Lynch and William R. Perkins. The winner will face Republican candidate William Bemis in November.

In the 6th District constable's race, Democrat incumbent Rick Reynolds will face challenger Roger Pickett in the May primary. The winner will be the 6th District constable.

Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.