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Voting - a family affair in Hickman County

A whopping 48%. That was the percentage of turn out in Hickman County’s primary on Tuesday. Almost half the registered voters in this small rural far Western Kentucky county showed up at the polls.

County Clerk Jimbo Berry’s Office reported that of the 3548 registered voters, 1657 voted either by absentee ballot or in person on Election Day. Three precincts in the city, Clinton 1, 2, and 3 and three in the county, Fulgham, Springhill and Columbus, did a brisk business all that gloomy, chilly day.

As one voter said, “The weather is perfect for voting. Not too hot. Not raining. Not too cold. Nobody has an excuse.”

Hickman Countians take their voting seriously. They turned out 60% in the presidential race of 2008.  But, it was not the widely reported GOP Senate race that brought out this heavily Democratic county, but a sheriff’s race that had voters interested. Incumbent John Turner was challenged by Mark Green and Michael G. Reilly in the Democratic primary. Green beat Turner 957-458. Reilly trailed with 84 votes.

In the Senate Democratic primary, Hickman Countians went strongly for Mongiardo, who visited the county four days before the election. He beat Jack Conway two to one, 814-407.  Local Republican voters were in tune with others across the state. Rand Paul beat Trey Grayson 92-57.

The new E-Scan voting machine shortened the lines generally expected with an almost 50% turnout.  The E-Scan machine reads paper ballots and was universally praised by election workers. Slipping a ballot across a glass plate sure beat standing outside the curtain and yelling at the voter to “tell us what it says.” 

I know firsthand about the enthusiasm that Hickman Countians show for casting their ballots. For the last several years, it has been my privilege to spend Election Tuesday from the predawn hours (be here no later than 5:30) until after sunset working at one of the local polling stations. It is an experience that simultaneously elates and humbles me.

One unique aspect of voting here is that the three “city” precincts, are all in one big room of the alternative school building. Clinton #1 is on the left as you come in the door. Clinton #2 is straight ahead and Clinton #3 is on your right.

Voters who can’t remember where they vote (but are pretty sure it’s somewhere in the building) can wander from precinct to precinct without getting their shoes wet or their hair mussed by the wind.

Experienced precinct workers offer helpful suggestions – sometimes hollered across the room. “Moss Drive votes here.” or “Go over there. Your mama just voted and that’s where she went.”  

Whole families come to vote. From the greats to the littles carried in daddy’s arms or clinging to mommy’s jeans, generations share the small d democratic experience.  Workers seem to know everyone. Going to vote means catching up with neighbors and friends on who’s getting medical treatment, how the kids are doin’ in college and how the strawberries are ripening (they are very good this year).

A great joy comes to me as I watch elderly black voters, the disenfranchised of the past, make their way slowly to the voting table. Leaning on their walkers or canes, they wheeze their names to the precinct clerk. They may not feel good. But they get out and vote.

An AP report by Brett Barrouquere said that Kentucky’s voting was below 30%. The problem? Rain. Pshaw.

When Hickman County votes at 48%, as the voter here said, “Nobody has an excuse.”


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