Voters Already Filling Out Ballots

Charleen Nester will be in Georgia when America chooses its next president.

"Thank goodness for absentee voting," the Gulfport woman said while she stood in the circuit clerk's office waiting for her absentee ballot.

Once she got it, the rookie absentee voter had a question.

"Do I do this (vote) here or over there?" she wondered.

The clerk pointed Nester to a voting booth right behind her, and the Gulfport woman got to work. Nester said voting 27 days early seemed unusual. But it also seemed to be the right thing to do.

"It's very, very important," she said. "I make a point of voting. Have to. It's very important. Our duty."

Nester added her absentee ballot envelop to a Harrison County box that already had plenty of ballots in it.

Connie Ladner is the Deputy Circuit Clerk of Harrison County.

"We voted probably 200 in the office in the last week and a half," she said. "And we've mailed out over 700. And it will continue to grow in the next four weeks."

This presidential election has circuit clerks working harder than ever. They're answering phone calls about absentee voting. They're sending out the absentee ballots. And they're still adding newly registered voters into Harrison County's data base.

In fact, 6,500 Harrison County residents filled out paperwork and registered to vote between August 1 and October 1 of this year. That means, a record 90,696 people in Harrison County are eligible to either fill out absentee ballots now, or to vote in the general election on November 2.

"It's very exciting," Ladner said. "I think it's wonderful that so many people are coming out to register to vote. I just hope they all will go to the polls and vote on election day."

For once, Charleen Nester won't visit her polling place next month. She'll be watching the finish of the presidential election near the finish line of a NASCAR track. As she sits there, she'll know that thanks to the absentee voting option, her vote counted in the 2004 election.

"I'm just glad we're able to vote," she said.

Every South Mississippi ballot will include the presidential election, the fourth district congressional race, a supreme court race, and the gay marriage amendment.