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Gregg County election officials pin low turnout on weather

From Staff Reports
March 4, 2014 at 10 p.m.

More than 10,500 Gregg County residents cast ballots Tuesday, representing 15.96 percent of the county's 66,146 registered Republicans and Democrats.

As of 11 p.m., Gregg County voters had outpaced the state where 1.55 million ballots had been counted representing 11.4 percent of the state's total 13.6 million registered voters, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Rusk County voters cast 5,076 ballots in the Republican Party primary and 372 ballots in the Democratic primary for a total of 5,448 total voters participating in the election. That represented 18.18 percent of the county's total 29,971 registered voters. Upshur County ballots had not fully been tabulated as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Polling places opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday  for the March Primary and by afternoon voter turnout remained low, with most blaming the dismal numbers on recent inclement weather.

Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy  said shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday that mail-in voting was high and  early voting was about average.

"I've been to six polling places, and there were no more than five people in line at a time. (It has  been lower) in a primary only if there are no contested races," she said.

Early voting started Feb. 18 and ended Friday with 4,812 ballots cast. The largest number of early ballots - 1,085 -   were cast the last day of early voting.

"It started out slow but picked up those last couple of days," Nealy said.

And Nealy hoped the last two hours of election day would see a peak as well.

"I know we had really bad weather yesterday morning - and many people around us do have ice - but the roads here are fine," she said.

Election judges were disappointed in the turnout, as well.

"It's been very light. Maybe it's the weather," said election judge Nancy Van Eimeren, who was working polling Tuesday morning at the Pine Tree Community Center. "We're hoping it picks up this afternoon."

Van Eimeren's co-election judge, Linda Thomas, said fewer than 30 people had voted by 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.

"It's lower than I expected. I'd wondered if it's the weather that's keeping people away," she said, adding she was optimistic turnout would pick up as the mercury rose through the afternoon.

Cecil Davis and Joyce McCoy didn't let the 28-degree air keep them from casting what Davis called his vote for change.

"We need a change," he said outside of Broughton Recreational Center.

He added voting is one of the most important things a person can do in his lifetime.

"I was going to vote no matter what way the weather went today," Davis said.

Election judge Janice Shaw, who worked the poll at Broughton Recreation Center, said she was concerned about the low turnout and hoped the end of the workday would bring in more voters.

She pinned the low turnout on the weather and media reports telling people the roads were still too dangerous for travel.

"The media is still advising people to not go out if you don't have to, but the roads here are fine," she said.

<em> - Sarah Thomas and Christina Lane contributed to this report.</em>



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