Decent weather, a robust absentee turnout, and a lot on the line — both for party candidates and local voters — means voter turnout today could be brisk.
Until the polls close this evening at 7 p.m., and until the ballots have been counted, there’s no way to be sure. But, said Cullman County circuit clerk Robert Bates Monday, a moderate-to-strong local voter turnout wouldn’t surprise him at all.
“Based on previous elections, it looks like it might be pretty good; we might have around 17,000,” said Bates, basing the estimate on the number of absentee ballots his office issued for today’s primary.
“Taking it back to the 2010 election — the last one we had — and comparing it with absentees we had in that election, it’s very close this time, in terms of numbers,” he said. “We had about 17,600 [voters] in that election. And the number of absentees we have this time is within three or four ballots of being the same amount we had then, so I think it’s going to be pretty close to the same number.”
Bates added, though, that any prediction based on absentee voting tendencies in previous election cycles isn’t scientific. With a revamped political calendar, a Republican-heavy local ballot, a presidential nomination on the line this time around, as well as numerous other factors, the final number of local voters who visit polls today simply can’t be known until day’s end.
There’s a lot at stake for local voters, with party races that have both local and national implications on the ballot, as well as one separate local issue — a half-cent sales tax referendum for public schools — that will affect residents countywide. And, Hanceville voters will decide today whether to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in their city in a separate municipal referendum.
A few things to note as you head to the polls today:
- Polls at all locations open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
- You don’t have to request a party ballot to vote on the half-cent countywide sales tax proposal. You can request a ballot without declaring a party affiliation, and you’ll receive a referendum ballot absent of any party candidates’ names.
- Similarly, Hanceville residents who wish to vote in their city’s wet/dry referendum must go through a ballot-casting process separate from that of the primary election. Both the primary vote and the wet/dry referendum will be held in the same buildings — the Steppville fire station and the Hanceville City Hall — but those two locations each will have separate entrances and polling areas for the primary election and wet/dry referendum.
Hanceville city clerk Tania Wilcox said finding the polling places shouldn’t be too hard, since election officials have made sure to mark the voting areas at both locations.
“There shouldn’t be any problem finding the entrance,” said Wilcox. “If you can get to the polling places, which are the same two places where Hanceville residents always vote, then we can get you to the right entrance for the election you’re trying to vote in. There’s separate entrances for each one, but we are going to have it very clearly indicated. By law, the entrances have to be spaced at least 30 feet apart.”
- Don’t write in a candidate. Party primaries don’t permit write-ins, and attempting to do so can only make things more difficult for poll workers as they process returns, said Bates.
“If anybody were to try it, it might mess their ballot up, and it definitely would not count,” he said. “You can write in your choice in a general election, but not in the primary.”
- If you haven’t registered to vote, it’s too late to vote in today’s primary. Alabama voter registration law requires a 10-day window between the date an individual registers to vote and the nearest calendar election, to allow for sufficient time to compile voter registration lists. For the April 24 primary runoff election, the voter registration deadline is April 13.
- The weather shouldn’t be a hindrance in getting to the polls today. Forecasts call for sun early, clouds late, and high temperatures close to 80 degrees — with only a 20 percent chance of rain.
- Check the Alabama Secretary of State’s 2012 voter guide at www.sos.state.al.us/downloads/election/2012/2012VoterGuide.pdf for information on acceptable forms of identification, the polling process, general voting information and whom to contact if you have a problem at your polling location.
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.