20 percent turn out for primary

COVINGTON — Almost 20 percent of registered Newton County voters cast ballots in Tuesday's primary election.

A total of 12,088 voters turned out to the polls, according to documentation from the Newton County Board of Elections Office. The county has 60,721 registered voters, meaning turnout was at 19.91 percent.

"The turnout was about right for the primary as a lot of voters wait to vote until the general election in November," said Donna Morrison, director of Newton County Board of Elections.

Results came in quicker than in years past, with final totals available before 10 p.m., but Morrison said that had more to do with hard work and preparation than light turnout.

Unofficial estimates have statewide turnout at 21.7 percent, according to a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office. That falls pretty much in line with primaries of years past, including 2008, when turnout was at 22 percent; 2006 when it was at 21 percent; 2002, when it spiked slightly to 30 percent; and 1998, when turnout was 24 percent.

Louise Strickland has worked at nearly every precinct in Newton County over the years. This year Strickland was at City Pond, where she said turnout was low.

"I think it's about like it always is except when it's a presidential election. It always gets heavy then. The most we had at any one time was about seven (people)," Strickland said.

Strickland has been working at the polls since Nixon was elected president, and she's seen a decline in voter turnout.

"It's sad to me that young people don't much vote. Who's going to run the country when us old people are gone?" she said. She attributes the declining participation in elections to voter apathy.

"I don't know why people can't see how important it is to elect good people to office. The campaigning is so ugly these days, I think that turns people off, too," she said.

Bobby Savage has been working the polls for 25 years and is a poll manager at Cedar Shoals precinct in Porterdale. Of about 1,800 active registered voters in that precinct, only 259 voted, he said. He's learned election turnouts are hard to predict.

"You can never tell. You just don't know what people are going to do. But I don't think we're going to have many for the runoff," he said.

Savage said he's tried to retire from his poll manager position, but there are so few willing to take on the work he hasn't been successful yet. It's rare to see young people involved in the election process, including working at the polls, he said. Savage hopes that has more to do with time constraints than apathy.

"You walk around to these polls and all you see are gray-haired people. The younger generation has to work and it takes two of them to keep their homes and all, I guess," he said.