Record voter turnout expected

Published 11:23 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

Tonight, history will have been made not only locally but nationwide as voters turn out to the polls to cast their ballot for the next set of governmental leaders.

Residents in Covington County will select a new county commission chairman as well as representatives from Districts 2 and 4. Statewide, voters will fill seats for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, state public service commission president and two places on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Additionally, they will vote on Amendment 1, which would create a rainy day fund for education.

On the national level, voters will choose a new president and vice president.

At all levels, today’s election is shaping up to be one of the most historic elections on record.

Locally, Special Probate Judge Leland Enzor said early numbers of registered voters are indicative of the level of interest in each of the races.

“Since the June primary, the level of voter registration has been excellent,” Enzor said. “We are literally over 23,000 registered voters in Covington County. That is just excellent.”

And with the number of people who are registered to vote, Enzor said he expects “a good number” of those to make it to the polls.

“The reports are putting turnout statewide at somewhere between 75 and 80 percent – which would be glorious,” he said. “But I’m a conservative fellow, I think here it’ll be more like 50 to 60 percent, which would also be would be wonderful.”

Secretary of State Beth Chapman is forecasting a turnout of 79 percent to 81 percent. If she’s correct, it would break the old record of 76 percent set in the 1992 presidential election.

The election momentum began building in February with a record turnout of 40 percent for Alabama’s presidential primary. Then Alabama set a voter registration record with more than 3 million names.

“Here, we had more than 1,000 absentee votes by last week,” Enzor said. “From what I last heard, we had at least 130 new voters this year – and that’s people who have never, ever been registered to vote – sign up for this election. These numbers are great.”

In fact, the overall interest in the election has prompted Enzor to “change up” the way results are announced on election night.

“Because we’re expecting such a large turnout and huge interest, I expect a record number of people at the courthouse,” he said. “With that in mind, we wanted to be sure that the poll officials can physically get the returns to us and we can process them in a timely fashion, so we are closing off the recording area of the probate office to the general public.

“People are still welcome at the front counter,” he said.

Enzor said by law, poll workers are required to have returns submitted to the probate office no later than two hours after the polls close.

“That means that we should have all the boxes by 9 p.m.,” he said. “A good number of the polling places are 30 minutes away from the courthouse, so we should have a good idea of what’s going on in Covington County by 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m.”

Enzor said the results would be announced as soon as each box is counted and tallied.

“I’m going to make the announcement as soon as each box comes in, and the results will be posted on the big screen in the lobby,” he said. “That way everyone gets the information all at the same time.”

Polls open are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“I just want to remind people to get out and vote,” he said.