Voting turnout could be low

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2004

REGION – If one thing two warring politicians can agree on in the upcoming special election for Senate District 24, it’s that the outcome hinges on voter turnout.

Historically, voter turnout is weak in special elections and at least two candidates, Thomas Moore of Demopolis and Bryant Melton of Tuscaloosa, know this election depends not so much on the issues of representation in the Legislature but on whether or not people will head to the polls two weeks in a row.

“Being that close to the general election puts a lot of pressure on the candidates trying to get the message out because we have back-to-back elections,” Melton said.

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In recent history, presidential general elections have been the biggest vote getters in Alabama – drawing 10.8 percent more voters than even gubernatorial races.

In the last four presidential races, an average of 65 percent of the state’s voters cast ballots. In the last four gubernatorial general elections, an average of only 54.2 percent of voters turned out – the highest was a 58 percent turnout in the Don Siegelman – Bob Riley race in 2002.

Those turnout numbers in the general have Moore and Melton running a bit skiddish knowing their race is just a week before a presidential general election.

“People are not focusing on it,” Moore said. “I’m making every effort to make sure people understand … that’s it’s critical to participate in both elections.”

At every campaign stop, Moore said, he’s pushed hard to remind voters that Oct. 26 is election day for him.

“It’s something I repeat and repeat,” he said.

State Sen. Hank Sanders believes turnout is a “double-edged sword.”

“It can work for or against a candidate,” he said. “A low turnout means that it’s low for the other candidate, too.”

Sanders has endorsed Moore in his bid against Melton.

“I personally think there’s a better chance of higher turnout in the rural counties [Marengo, Hale, Sumter, Perry and Greene] than in Tuscaloosa,” he said.

Regardless of

the demographics, both campaigns have employed tactics aimed at getting out the vote.

“[The special election date] is going to pose a problem and frustrate the voters,” Melton said. “That’s why I’m trying to make as most folks as possible excited about voting.”

The Moore campaign is running radio spots featuring Sanders and Congressman Artur Davis aimed at whipping up that same excitement.

Singleton was did not return phone calls to his office or home for this story.