Voter numbers at historic levels

Published 10:59 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

Interesting local trends are emerging heading into the Nov. 4 primary election, according to county election officials.

There are 22,240 registered voters in the county. Of those, nearly 1,000 are listed as inactive voters.

Additionally, the number of female voters in the county — 12,335 — outweighs the 9,905 males registered to vote by 10 percent.

The gender gap is not surprising, according to Virginia Merritt of the Covington County Board of Registrars Office.

“Before we got the new computer system, we used to keep color-coded index cards on file for voters,” Merritt said. “Just by looking at them, you could easily see that the number of women voters outweigh the men.”

Merritt, whose office is responsible for registering residents to vote, said her office has seen also seen an increase in the overall number of people signing up to vote.

“The people that come in — I’d have to say that we’ve seen more couples, like husbands and wives, coming into vote than people coming in individually,” she said. “Outside of them, it’s still more women coming in than men.”

Of those, Merritt said she is seeing more white residents than black residents registering.

A breakdown of county voters has 19,537 whites, 2,508 blacks and 195 “other” registered to vote.

In regards to age the breakdown is as follows:

18-24 – 1,996;

25-44 – 6,548;

45-65 – 8,320;

66 and older – 5,376.

“This election has got people really excited,” Merritt said. “I think it’s more on a national level too, even though we elect county commissioners. It just goes to show the awareness of the power of a vote.”

Merritt also said the number of inactive voters has also dropped dramatically.

“Right now, there are 30 less active voters than at the beginning of the month,” she said. “We’re still getting lots of calls about people wondering if they can still vote even though they’re on the inactive list.

“The answer is absolutely,” she said. “They’ll just be required to update their information at the polls. So remember, even if you haven’t voted in years — but you are already registered — you can still vote.”

Roger Powell, the county’s circuit clerk, said absentee voting for this election has “shattered” all the records for elections past.

“(Thursday) was the regular deadline and we just passed 1,000 absentee ballots,” Powell said. “Two over as a matter of fact — which is a record breaking number for us.”

Powell said clerks all over the state are reporting the same situation.

“The biggest turnout we had for absentee ballots was 700 eight years ago,” he said. “We’ve beaten that by 300 already and we have two more days to go.”

Powell said in the event of a business or medical emergency, voters can still apply for an absentee ballot on Friday and Monday.

“Those days have a different set of rules for people to qualify, but if it’s an absolute emergency, they can still vote,” he said.

Powell said of those applying for absentee ballots, the majority of those have been “young people.”

“This presidential election is going to be historic,” he said. “Young people are really interested in what’s going to happen. I just hope the trend continues in the future.”

The general election is Tues., Nov. 4. Polls will open at 7 a.m.