Election officials expecting ‘moderate’ voter turnout for Alabama midterms
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Election officials are not expecting a large turnout at polling places on Tuesday, November 8. Leaders said since this isn’t a presidential election year, they expect around 45-50% of voters to participate.
“We have 3,689,235 registered voters in the state of Alabama,” Secretary of State John Merrill said. “We anticipate we are going to have somewhere between 1.65 million and 1.84 million of those folks go to the polls tomorrow. That is between 45 to 50%. That’s a moderate turnout at best.”
Merrill said it’s partly because there isn’t as much enthusiasm around the races as in the last election cycle.
“This is typically a re-election mode for Alabama,” Merrill said. “When the governor is on the ballot and is a very popular governor, which is where we are today, and that is why I anticipate the turnout is what it is projected to be.”
But, it’s competition on the ballot that drives voter turnout, so Merrill said there will be pockets of the state with higher numbers of voters.
“It will be interesting to see what those final numbers look like in different pockets throughout the state.”
In Jefferson County, leaders are expecting only around 40-42% of voter turnout.
“My best guess is 40 to 42% voter turnout, so 200,000 to 210,000 voters,” Jefferson County’s Board of Registrars Chairman Barry Stephenson said. “There is not much competition at the top of the ballot and that is what drives turnout.”
Leaders with the Jefferson County Democrats said voter turnout could be better, if Alabama voting was more convenient.
“We could increase voter turnout by making it easier for folks to vote,” Jefferson County Democrats Chairman Wayne Rogers said. “I would prefer we do it something similar to what Georgia does, they actually open up voting two weeks before election day and have two full weeks of voting.”
Rogers also suggested Saturday voting in October, trying to make it easier for those who work.
“The folks who are working an hourly wage, when they go vote tomorrow, it is going to cost them money,” Rogers said. “If they work a $10 an hour job and they go to vote tomorrow, the likelihood is it’s going to cost them $20, if not $30, to go and vote. We believe it would be more fair to have them vote either on a Saturday or a longer extended period of time where they can use their day off.”
But Merrill said Alabama does have a form of early voting with absentee ballots. You just have to follow absentee ballot requirements.
“We have 55 days of early voting each time through the absentee process,” Merrill said. “We know that when people want to vote early or need to vote early, they have the opportunity to do so. It’s up to them to determine if they want to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Merrill said so far, 51,000 absentee ballots have been submitted. Those will be the first votes tallied and reported on November 8.
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