"Huge" voter turnout predicted in Harrison County

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - These are crazy days at the Harrison County Circuit Clerk's office. Nearly 4,000 people have stopped by there to fill out absentee ballots. And hundreds of other voters have called the office to ask election day questions.

The election buzz has created plenty of excitement around the Harrison County Courthouse and at the election commission headquarters.

As you might guess, this is crunch time for the clerks and commissioners responsible for the November 4 election. Every machine must work. Every ballot must be counted. So on Thursday, technicians tested the computer touch screens that will be sent to each Harrison County precinct. And deputy clerk Connie Ladner answered a variety of phone queries.

"You can vote, but you're going to have to vote affidavit at your new precinct," she told one woman.

Harrison County has nearly 94,000 registered voters. On election day, 70 electronic voting machines, and 500 voting booths will be dispersed around the county.

"We're anticipating a huge voter turnout," said Ladner.

By removing the paper that often jammed in the Diebold touch screens, that system will be available if voters want to use it. However, paper ballots and scanners will also record votes. Ladner says the county is using both systems because "we don't want the voters to wait in line any longer than they have to."

According to Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker, close to 4,000 Harrison County people have already cast absentee ballots.

"What it says is we're going to have a record number turnout this election," she predicted.

So to be safe, Harrison County election commissioners ordered 110,000 ballots. That way, they won't run out.

Tommy Esposito is one of county's five election commissioners.

"We hope to have a good election, a good turnout, and we hope to break records," he said.

Parker preached patience, because she knows November 4 will be a challenging day for everybody.

"I know the lines are going to be long, and the voters will have to be patient," she noted. "But the poll workers have been trained, and they know what to do."

The election buzz is just as loud in Hancock and Jackson Counties. Circuit clerks in both of those counties say registered voters have requested a record number of absentee ballots. More than a thousand have been issued in Hancock County. More than 2,000 have gone out to Jackson County voters. In Mississippi, more than 1.8 million people are registered to vote in the presidential election.