A decidedly Republican state, the Heart of Dixie has received far less attention from President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney. But there is at least one indication that a large number of this state’s residents will show up to the polls today — the past.
In 2004 and 2008 roughly 73 percent of the state’s voters showed up to the polls to select a president, according to Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s website. Chapman is predicting a similar turnout will take place today.
In contrast, roughly 70 percent of residents in the hotly contested state of Ohio cast a vote for president in 2008. Four years earlier roughly 72 percent of Ohioans went to the polls for the general presidential election, according to data found on websites maintained by Ohio’s secretary of state.
Lori Owens, chair of the political science and public administration department at Jacksonville State University, also said she thinks Alabamians will again turn out to vote on Election Day.
“I think everybody is going to want to have say,” Owens said.
If absentee ballots are any indication, however, local turnout could be lower than it was for the last election.
Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks said this year’s absentee ballot numbers are down significantly from 2008, a high-turnout year. There were about 3,000 absentee ballots in 2008, he said, and about 1,600 this year.
Still, Hooks is not sure the drop in absentee ballots foreshadows a drop in turnout at the polls.
“We had a lot of soldiers and sailors overseas, then, who are home now,” he said, noting the end of the war in Iraq.
In Cleburne County, absentee ballots dropped from about 380 in 2008 to 338 this year. Circuit Clerk Jerry Owen said 2008 was the highest turnout he’d seen in 18 years in office, and he expected turnout to be only a little less this year. That prediction, he said, is based as much on the talk he’s heard as on the numbers he’s seen.
“I hear a lot of interest in this election,” he said. “I predict a large turnout.”
Locally, 65,279 people are actively registered to vote in Calhoun County, or about 55 percent of the county’s total population, 118,572, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The ballot also lists candidates who aren’t running for national offices. A slew of local candidates will also be named on the ballot, as will 12 amendments proposed for the state constitution.
All of those voters and candidates will make for a busy week for the state’s election officials. Locally, the Calhoun County Board of Registrars spent much of Monday taking calls from voters.
“Today has been hectic,” Calhoun County Board of Registrars member Carolyn Henderson said. “We have five lines and they’re ringing constantly.”
Henderson said voters often wait until the day of the election to call the registrar’s office to ask common questions. When voters wait until Election Day to call the registrar, it complicates the process for the registrars who are also fielding calls from election officials at polling places.
But, Alabama’s voters don’t have to turn to their local registrars to find out where their polling places are. The can visit the secretary of state’s website at www.AlabamaVotes.gov to find out where to vote and to see sample ballots.
Sample ballots allow voters to get a sneak peak of the slip of paper they’ll see in their polling places.
Another predictor of voter turnout is weather. According to the national weather service, the Anniston area has a 50 percent chance of rain today, but that threat won’t be constant, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Jody Aaron.
Aaron said the greatest chance will come in the morning and a chance of isolated showers will remain until roughly 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. The showers that do fall, he said, are expected to be light and the temperature will stay cool.
Aaron said the temperature would begin in the mid-40s and that it will peak at about 55 degrees.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star. Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette contributed reporting.