June 24, 2014 4:29:12 PM
The number of requested absentee ballots in the Golden Triangle ahead of today's run-off election is greater than the number requested prior to the June 3 primary.
This reflects the similar statewide trend reported by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's office. He reported 19,144 absentee ballots were requested as of 9 a.m. Monday compared to 18,036 before June 3, an increase of 1,108 ballots.
Today's runoff pits incumbent Thad Cochran against challenger Chris McDaniel for the Republican nominee in the Nov. 4 race for a U.S. Senate seat. In the June 3 primary, McDaniel finished ahead of Cochran by 1,386 votes statewide. The tally was 155,040 to 153,654. That wasn't enough for McDaniel to advance to the general election, however, as his 49.5 percent fell short of the 50-percent-plus-one majority required. Thomas Carey, who also ran on the Republican ticket, finished with 4,789 votes in his favor.
Cochran carried Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties with a combined 7,270 votes over McDaniel's 4,351 before affidavits were counted.
Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties saw significant upticks in ballot requests, while Clay and Noxubee counties saw small decreases. In Oktibbeha County, 495 absentee ballots were requested before today's run-off compared to 335 prior to June 3. There were 288 requests for ballots in Lowndes County before today, 46 more than the 242 requested before the first primary.
In Clay County, 162 voters requested absentee ballots before today's runoff compared to 181 before this month's first election. Ninety-one people had requested ballots before June 3 in Noxubee County compared to 87 before today, Hosemann's office reported. In total, 183 more absentee ballots were requested in those four counties before the runoff than before the first election.
Lowndes County Circuit Clerk Haley Salazar said her office received 251 actual absentee ballots back for today's election as of Monday afternoon compared to 151 before June 3 and is hopeful the increase is an indicator of a stronger overall turnout than the 18 percent who came to the polls in the county three weeks ago.
"I certainly am hopeful because we were very disappointed in the numbers for the first primary," Salazar said. "This is vacation season, so it's hard to say why more people are voting absentee this time maybe than they did the first time around."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Lowndes sex offender arrested for statutory rape COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Council approves new nepotism policy language COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY