Voters divided in Senate race

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 2004

LINDEN – Voters are likely to have a confusing time Tuesday when they head to the polls to vote in the special election for Senate District 24.

The county shares representation between District 24 and District 23 in the state’s senate. Sen. Hank Sanders serves in District 23, the rest have voted for Charles Steele, who resigned the District 24 seat to accept a full-time job with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“The main problem we have is people are not aware there will be an election on Oct. 26,” said Marengo County Probate Judge Cindy Neilson. “People are more geared and informed about the general election on Nov. 2.”

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That’s the problem that at least two candidates in the race – Demopolis city councilman Thomas Moore and Tuscaloosa State Rep. Bryant Melton – have actively tried to tackle in their short campaign cycle.

“At every stop, I push, push, push Oct. 26,” Moore said.

Getting the voter to the polls is what they’re concerned about, but some Marengo County voters may get to the polls only to find out they can’t vote in the District 24 race.

“The second problem is there are six precincts that are split, meaning there will be voters in those precincts who are not eligible to vote in the Senate District 24 race,” Neilson said.

According to Neilson, who will manage the special and general election in the county, Those six precincts are:

Cornerstone, where 1,003 of 1,508 registered voters are eligible to vote in District 24;

Surginer, where only 31 of the precinct’s 212 voters live in District 24;

Dixons Mills, where 872 of 922 registered voters are in the district;

Octagon, where 14 voters can cast ballots for Senate District 24;

Old Courthouse, where 516 of 546 registered voters can vote in the special election; and

Wayne, where 61 of 108 voters are eligible.

It’s the first time in Neilson’s 33 years in the courthouse that there’s been a special election in the senate district, and it’s an issue that could confuse the voters who must ultimately compare where they live to a district map to settle any question of residency.

“Each poll place will have the poll list of eligible voters, and in the split precincts, they will also have a map and can ask [the voters where they live] if their name is not on he list,” Neilson said.

Beyond that, poll workers can call the probate office for further verification of voter registration, kept on a computer system and accessible by both the probate and board of registrars’ offices.

“If people have any concerns about whether they live in those precincts, they can call my office or the board of registrars and we’ll be glad to verify which senate district they live in,” she said.

Voters who need to call to verify in which district they live, can call the probate office at 295-2210 or the board of registrars at 295-2249.

“I anticipate there being some confusing because I think people really don’t realize where those district lines are, but we have asked the poll workers to give us a call at the courthouse to further verify where they live not to turn them away,” Neilson said.