Turnout steady at traditionally busy polling site

Standing outside First Baptist Church in Seymour on Tuesday afternoon, Jim Rebber smiled and waved to everyone walking in to vote.

“Thanks for voting,” he told every person, whether they voted for him or not.

Rebber, a Republican, was running to represent District 4 on the Seymour City Council, a seat he has held for the past 21 years.

His opponent was first-time candidate Tammy Riordan, a Democrat.

Although voter turnout was expected to be low this year due to the lack of contested races on the ballot, Rebber said traffic at the polling site was steady throughout the day.

“There’s been over 300,” he said of the number of voters who visited the polling site, which housed both the Jackson 4 and 5 North precincts, before 2 p.m.

But that’s not really a surprise to him.

For one thing, it was warm and sunny with temperatures in the 70s, so people didn’t mind getting out, he said.

And historically, the precincts have good voter participation, he said.

“It helps to have a contested race, but these districts typically come out strong, whether there’s a race or not,” he said.

Poll clerk Judy Juergens said she thought that, between the two precincts, they would hit 20 percent of registered voters.

“We need 580 voters to be at 20 percent,” she said.

The reason for the higher turnout in the area is because the general age of the voters is higher, poll judge Bob Prather said.

“We have an older demographic. More people are retired and have the time to come vote,” he said.

“And they care about what happens,” Juergens added.

But so does Kayla Stice, who voted for the first time Tuesday. As a young professional and mother, Stice said, it’s important to have a voice in what’s going on in the community.

She also wanted to support first-time candidate and friend Shawn Malone, who ran as an independent for one of two at-large seats on the Seymour City Council. His opponents were incumbents Democrat Lloyd Hudson and Republican Darrin Boas and newcomer Republican Kendra Zumhingst.

“I’m proud that I voted,” Stice said.

She said she plans to continue to vote in upcoming elections and be a part of the political process.

“I think it helps you get more involved in the community,” she said. “I have a family, I’m a homeowner, and I pay taxes. I should be involved.”

Juergens said she arrived at the church at 5 a.m. with her husband, Art Juergens, to prepare for the polls opening at 6 a.m. and would remain there until they closed at 6 p.m.

Although it seems like a long day, Juergens said, she spends the time working crossword puzzles and talking to the other poll workers.

“It’s never boring with this crew,” she said. “We laugh a lot.”

Art Juergens, who served as a poll judge, said he was killing two birds with one stone by supporting the political process and getting his exercise in. According to a health monitoring app on his cellphone, he had taken 5,156 steps and burned nearly 300 calories just by helping people vote.

“It just shows how busy we’ve been,” he said.

By about 1:30 p.m., 325 voters had cast their ballots at the church.

Rebber said it doesn’t matter how often you run for office, you are never guaranteed to return.

“You never know what voters are going to do,” he said.

But he enjoys campaigning, especially knocking on people’s doors to introduce himself.

“Sometimes, they are really surprised that a candidate would do that,” he said.

Rebber said it’s important, though, for candidates to get to know their districts and the people who live there. And there’s no better way to do that and get a feel for the community than to go street by street and house by house, he said.

He estimates he visited nearly all the homes in his district.

“It turned out to be a pleasant experience,” he said. “Some people had questions, which is good. One of the biggest issues talked about is the conditions of our roads.”

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.