11/08/06 — Lack of marquee races, rain kept many voters home here

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Lack of marquee races, rain kept many voters home here

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 8, 2006 1:45 PM

Rain, wind and cool temperatures didn't make for ideal election weather Tuesday, but that didn't stop about a third of Goldsboro's registered voters from exercising their democratic rights.

About 20,000 of Goldsboro's more than 63,000 registered voters cast a ballot in at least one race.

"The turnout ... I'd like to say I'm surprised with it, but on a rainy day, we kind of anticipated it," Wayne County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said.

With few truly competitive races on the ballot and nothing of national prominence, the rain only served to further slow a day that was already expected to be light.

Typically in an even-numbered, mid-term election, Sims explained, Wayne County has a turnout of about 50 percent. This year, however, it was much lower -- less than 30 percent, including the absentee and early voting.

"But you've got to consider we didn't have any big national contests out there and that always brings in the voters," Sims said, and of course, he added, the weather. More than an inch of rain fell across the county, mostly after noon.

In fact, the only countywide races of note were the sheriff's race, which incumbent Carey Winders won by a 2 to 1 margin, and clerk of court, which veteran clerk's assistant Pam Minshew also won by a 2 to 1 margin. Almost every one of the nearly 20,000 ballots cast held a vote for one of those races.

Several judge seats also were on every ballot in the county, but those didn't draw near the numbers of the local races, falling several thousand votes short.

Surprisingly perhaps, the county's Soil and Water Conservation District race seemed to be one of the day's most popular contests with more than 22,000 votes cast. However, voters could choose more than one candidate for the two open seats on the five-member non-partisan board.

The victory went to incumbents Ronald Parks (38 percent of the vote) and Bryant Worley (35 percent).

But, said Board of Elections Chairman Chester Beverly, while such low turnout numbers may be discouraging, the good news was that everything seemed to run as planned. It was the first general election test of the county's new election machines.

"It was very smooth," he said. "We had some dedicated workers out there. Everyone was enthusiastic and everything was running smooth."

"Honestly, they were a much bigger headache than we were accustomed to (with the old machines), but they did perform as well as we expected and Wayne County citizens can feel very confident with the results," Sims said. "I'm proud of my precinct officials and my staff and the way they pulled together and worked as a team."

The results will be certified by the county elections board on Nov. 17 during the canvass. Until then, even though election officials are confident in the accuracy of their numbers, the results are still technically unofficial.

No changes are expected, however, as the results are audited in the upcoming days.

"At this point, I'm ecstatic (at how well things went) but it's not over until canvass," Sims said.