Voters across Alabama cast ballots in primary elections for statewide offices Tuesday, but personal ties to local candidates seemed to be the draw for many voters in Calhoun County.
“I’m hoping to get new blood in the board of education,” said Brenda Jacobson, who voted in Weaver on Tuesday. “The schools need so much more and the board isn’t doing much.”
About a quarter of the state’s voters were expected to show up Tuesday to pick Democratic and Republican nominees for governor and other statewide offices, as well as seats in Congress and the Alabama Legislature.
Secretary of State John Merrill told several news outlets he expected 25 to 30 percent turnout in the primary. Turnout in general elections is typically higher than in primaries.
Polls closed at 7 p.m. For the Calhoun Countians who did turn out, local races seemed to be as strong a motivator as statewide contests.
Follow along live as we watch returns in Alabama's June 5 party primary elections in Calhoun County.
Douglas Bonds, a local warehouse worker and member of the Army National Guard, voted at United Methodist Church in Weaver.
He said that he came out in Tuesday's primaries to vote for candidates who care about schools and other local issues.
Bonds, who cast a ballot in the GOP primary, said he voted for Kay Ivey in the governor's race. Asked about local races, Bonds mentioned one candidate by name. "I came out to vote for Joe Dyar. He cares about schools," Bonds said. "And I know him personally."
At the Alexandria Civitan Club, the parking lot was filled with voters' cars around 4 p.m.
Chris Alen said that he voted in the GOP primary and was especially excited to do so because of the governor's race. Alen said he voted for minister Scott Dawson.
"I like his stances on things," Alen said, "and I think that we need an outsider. He's the only candidate like that."
When it came to local races, Alen said, he wasn't particularly energized by any one competition, but that he always comes out to vote anyway.
Another voter at Alexandria Civitan Club who did not want to reveal her name said that her vote — in the Democratic primary — was based on her experiences as a substance abuse counselor.
"I voted for Walt Maddox," she said. "I wasn't crazy about his platform, but it was better than the other candidates."
She said she voted for "better schools and better health care."
Another voter at the Alexandria Civitan Club, retired educator Sarah Hunt, said that she voted in the Democratic primary, but that for her, the process was "totally confusing."
Hunt said had she known how few candidates would be on the Democratic ballot, she may have voted in the GOP races.
"It was slim pickings," she said of the Democratic ballot, adding that she wished more candidates would run on the left.
Hunt, who now volunteers at the local Boys and Girls Clubs, said that she hopes the candidates who win their party's nominations, and eventually public office, do more for the poor.
"I hope they're fair," she said. "I hope they think every day about the poor."
Clay Kidd, who voted at Anniston City Meeting Center, said he came out to vote for County Commissioner Fred Wilson.
"I know Wilson," he said. "We've been friends for over 30 years."
At Jacksonville First Baptist, voter Laura Culver said she had to make the trip from Anniston to cast her ballot.
"My home was destroyed in the tornado," she said of the March 19, with Jacksonville State University’s damaged Houston Cole Library in view. "I'm staying at my son's home for a while, so I had to come out to vote today."
Culver, who voted in the Republican primary, said that she always votes because "if you don't vote, you can't fuss."
Culver said she voted in the Republican primary. As for her choices, she said that the governor's race was most important to her.
"I voted for Kay Ivey," she said. "She's done a good job so far, and in when we're in such dire straits, we need someone like her."
Reporting by Sheniece Chappell, Lee Hedgpeth, Allison Preslar and Tyler Waldrep.