May 7, 2013 10:32:08 AM
Months of campaigning from candidates vying to lead Wards 4, 5 and 6 has come down to this.
Columbus' municipal primary election officially began at 7 a.m., and at the very least, who will take the latter two seats will be known tonight after votes are tallied. With three candidates on the ballot in Ward 4, a May 21 run-off will be needed if one of them does not secure at least 50 percent of the vote.
Voters will have three Democrats to pick from in that ward -- long-time incumbent Fred Stewart, Marty Turner and Maurice Webber. Two Democrats are vying for the Ward 5 chair -- incumbent Kabir Karriem and Kenneth McFarland. Two Republicans -- incumbent Bill Gavin and challenger Whirllie Byrd -- square off for Ward 6. None of the winners will have to face opponents in the June 4 general election and will be sworn in July 1.
Polls will be open until 7 p.m.
The city has budgeted $80,000 to cover the primary and general elections combined. The election is the first under the newly configured wards as approved by the U.S. Department of Justice last November.
City registrar Brenda Williams said training for the 39 poll workers working the primary election was held April 16 and 18 and said all workers have previous experience with county elections and are familiar with the electronic machines people will use to cast their votes. Eight workers will be on hand at the Hunt School, Union School and Brandon Central Office to assist voters, while five will be at the Propst Park Community Hut, the First Assembly Activities Building and the Mississippi University for Women Carrier Lodge.
"(Today) should go smoothly because of the machines we're using and our workers," Williams said. "The counts should be over with quickly."
City Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said he hopes to see increased voter turnout over the 23 percent of registered voters who came to the polls in 2009.
"I was really surprised to find out it was only 23 percent," Armstrong said. "(Low turnout) is very widespread in this state and I'd say in other states, too on a local level, and that's unfortunate. Hopefully participation will be better this time but there's no way to predict it."
Columbus Voting Precinct List
■ Townsend Park
826 15th Street South
■ William Washington Terrace
2201 8th Avenue South
■ National Guard Armory
111 Fabritek Dr.
■ Fairview School
225 Airline Road
■ Columbus Fire Station Number One
205 7th Street South
■ Wilcutt Block VFD Building
74 Wilcutt Road
■ Columbus High School
■ Propst Park Community Hut
2535 Main Street
■ Hunt School
920 20th Street North
■ First Assembly Activities Building
2201 Military Road
■ MUW Carrier Lodge
802 1st Street South
■ Union School
1425 10th Avenue North
■ Brandon Central Office
2630 McArthur Drive
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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