Near-record turnout

Tight presidential race drives more than 30,000 voters to polls

It was a day many waited for and just as many were afraid to see come.

Jackson County voters went to the polls Tuesday in numbers rarely seen here. A total of 59 percent or 17,974 of 30,532 registered voters cast their ballots.

The near-record turnout was predictable, unlike everything else that has happened during this unpredictable election.

When the polls closed and the ballots were counted, one thing was certain — things are going to be different.

Judy Juergens of Seymour worked the polls in Brownstown on Tuesday. She said regardless of who people support or don’t support, the decision will impact the country not just for four years, but for generations.

“This election is so important as it will determine new Supreme Court justices and in what direction our country will move,” Juergens said.

At the American Legion Annex in Seymour on Tuesday morning, people were lining up to vote.

Poll worker Joe Joiner said it was a good sign, indicating people care about what is going on.

By 11:15 a.m., about 450 people had voted at the annex, which served as the polling site for Jackson 3 North and Jackson 5 East precincts.

Joiner said voting was really steady throughout the morning.

“When we opened at 6 a.m., we had a line outside. Probably a good 25 people came in then,” he said.

But he and other poll workers expected as much because of the presidential race.

By Monday at noon when the absentee polling sites had closed, more than 5,100 or nearly 17 percent of the 30,548 registered voters had decided to vote before Election Day.

That’s nearly 30 percent of the 17,000 people who voted in the last presidential election in Jackson County in 2012.

This year was the first time Brittney Sanford of Seymour has ever voted.

At first, she didn’t want to, thinking it didn’t matter, she said.

“It was a little nerve-racking, but my mom kind of talked me through it and said I really needed to get out and vote because it’s important to everybody,” she said. “It’s not just affecting me, it’s affecting my daughter.”

It was Sanford’s 18-month-old daughter, Zoey Eglen, who she carried with her into the polls that convinced her to vote.

One of the big political issues that was on Sanford’s mind while making her choices was the abortion debate.

“If you’re dead when you’re heart stops, why wouldn’t you be considered alive when it starts?” she said. “I don’t care if you’re six weeks or six months pregnant, there is a baby in there, and it kills me to think you could take something as beautiful as that and not even give it a chance.”

Kelly Hendrix said he had to vote because he believes Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “bad for the country.”

“I feel if I want the country to go in the direction I want it to go in that I have to get out here and vote and perform my civic duty,” he said.

Although he hasn’t voted in every election, Hendrix said he always votes for president and congress.

“I’ve voted since 1980, and this is the one that feels like it matters the most,” he said. “No matter the outcome, I worry about what is going to happen tomorrow.”

Hendrix said immigration is one of the big issues in this election that concerns him.

“Our country is founded on immigration,” he said. “We have to have smart immigration. We can’t cut it off completely. If we build a 36-foot wall to keep people out, they will just build a 37-foot ladder.”

He said it comes down to voting for the “most hopeful” candidate, and he believed that was Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“The email scandal is disturbing, but it’s not a game-changer,” Hendrix said.

While most people said they are glad they voted and that the election is over, others say it’s what comes next that will decide our country’s future.

Tara Overbay-Johnson of Seymour said this year’s Election Day is not a celebration of America’s rights and privileges to vote as it should be because of the two major party candidates from which voters have to choose.

“It’s a sad day for America,” she said. “Even a victory over hate, bigotry and supremacy will be overshadowed by corruption. I’m praying for a greater wisdom to prevail and reveal itself as we pick up the pieces and work toward better days.”

Some things will not change, though, she added.

“We all still have to go to work tomorrow, pay taxes and care for our loved ones, so let’s keep calm and carry on,” she said.

Although Lissa Wilson of Seymour cast her vote Tuesday, she questioned whether it was worth it.

“Corrupt government will decide who wins, and that is my issue,” she said. “I will still vote, but does anyone think our vote really counts this year?”

Several voters said they would like to see the popular vote decide who the next president is instead of the electoral college.

“Electoral votes aren’t used on state or local levels, so why are they on the federal level?” asked Rex Schroer of Freetown.

“I don’t feel that states should have electoral votes,” said Teresa Sowders of Seymour. “We the people should decide.”

By the numbers

Voting in presidential election years

Year;Registered voters;Turnout;Percent

2016;30,532;17,974;59

2012;29,380;17,006;58

2008;30,208;17,742;59

2004;28,128;18,260;65

2000;27,154;14,891;55

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