Early voting gets higher-than-expected turnout

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Early voting turnout has been higher than expected for a gubernatorial primary election, according to officials. A heated sheriff’s race is one of the main factors, according to Deputy County Clerk Connie Jo Lyman.

Typically presidential elections bring in more voters than gubernatorial races, but this year’s early votes are shy of those for the 2004 presidential primary by only 315, Lyman said.

In early voting, 1,431 people cast their votes.

Lyman said there have been slow periods in the early voting — only one person showed up to vote at the courthouse on Saturday.

Today will be the last opportunity for voters to cast their selections.

Resident Bill Askew said he voted early as he does every year. “I don’t like the rush,” he said.

Genaro Soto, also of Clovis, said he prefers to wait until primary election day to cast his vote. “It gives me an opportunity to visit and talk and see people I haven’t seen in a while.”

Even with the turnout, Lyman would have liked to have seen more early votes and hopes today’s turnout will be stronger.

“I don’t know if people realize that our county sheriff, magistrate judge and commissioners will be elected (in this race). If they want an opinion, they’ve got (today) to do it,” she said.

“The window of opportunity has got to be determined (today). The weather’s beautiful. There’s really no reason not to go vote.”

A sheriff’s race always seems to attract attention, Lyman said

In the race for sheriff, there are three Republican candidates: the winner will run unopposed in November. Likewise, there are two Republican candidates for magistrate judge, three Democratic candidates for commissioner to represent district one, and two Democratic candidates vying for the district three seat on the commission.

In the event of a tie, the winner is decided by a game of chance chosen by the candidates.

“They can flip a coin or play a game of cards. It’s up to them. One person asked if they can have a duel — I guess they could,” she said laughing, explaining she can remember only one tie since she’s been there and that was decided with a coin toss.

With the heightened focus on the winners of the primary election, Lyman said many voters have changed their party affiliation in order to vote in chosen races. The sheriff’s race in particular has swayed a lot of Democrats to re-register as Republicans, she said.

“The candidates bring the changeovers in by the handfuls.” She explained many candidates are registered to carry voter registration forms, and are able to accept the forms and return them to the clerk’s office for recording.

The sheriff’s candidates have been proactive in getting people to change their parties, she said.

In 1995 there were three Democrats to every one Republican registered voter in Curry County, but things have changed, Lyman said. During the 2004 election many changed affiliation and never changed back, she said. With 21,058 registered voters in Curry County, 10,238 are Republican and 8,080 are Democrats.