Light turnout reported as voters head to the polls in Tuesday's primary
As Alabama voters chose nominees on Tuesday, it was hard to tell whether any particular issue was driving turnout.
It was also clear there wouldn’t be much turnout to measure.
Primary voters decided nominees for statewide offices, including governor, congressional races — most notably U.S. Senate — and legislative and local races.
Turnout through the morning was light. Secretary of State John Merrill estimated early Tuesday afternoon that turnout would land somewhere between 28 and 32% of registered voters. But he added that polling places he had checked at midday only reported turnout of 10%.
Interviews with a dozen voters Tuesday morning at polling places in Montgomery, Pike Road and Auburn suggested that with little in the way of ideological differences between the Republican candidates, voters were looking for individual traits and characteristics.
Supporters of Gov. Kay Ivey indicated that they liked her leadership, particularly on education issues. Hannah Remson, a marketing coordinator for Troy University who lives in Pike Road, said she liked Ivey’s support of virtual learning, a program she works with.
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“I just felt like she has my same values, and keeps doing good for Alabama,” she said.
By contrast, supporters of businessman Tim James for governor said they wanted to see Alabama go in a new direction, and said they thought James could push that forward. Tom Riello, a Montgomery teacher, said it was important to him to see political power delegated to the local level, and that he believed James would do a better job with that.
“One of the things that’s important in our leadership is somebody who’s willing to move the ball down the field, and, you know, make things happen in a positive way,” he said. “And my sense with James is I think he’s probably more likely to do that (than) Gov. Ivey, no malice toward Gov. Ivey.”
Voters also seemed to be more concerned with the U.S. Senate candidates as individuals instead of their stands on particular issues. Casey Rigsby, a salesman from Auburn who voted for former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, said she impressed him during a speech.
“Her background, her involvement with BCA, and yeah, a small-town girl standing up for her values,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, got and then lost the endorsement of former President Donald Trump last March. But some people who voted for him said they like his handling of that breach.
“After Trump dropped him, he stood up and he didn’t hide from it,” said Lea Ann Hoogestraat, a retired economic developer who lives in Pike Road. “He didn’t try and smooth talk it. He addressed everything, and he has a good record.”
Many voters also complained about the harsh tone of the political advertising before the primary. Ed Reifenberg, a retired accountant in Montgomery, voted for former Books-A-Million CFO Lew Burdette for governor because Burdette focused on state issues and because he was “tired of all the trashy negativity.”
“The candidates don’t talk about the issues,” he said. “They just talk about each other. I don’t know what Alabama values are, because no one articulates those.”
Democrats are not expected to be competitive in any of the state races this year. Voters casting ballots in the Democratic primary at Vaughn Park Church of Christ in Montgomery on Tuesday morning focused more on local school board and state House races. Some said they did not cast any ballots at the top of the ticket.
Andy Porter, a college student, said he voted for Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-Selma, for governor, who he said stood out in a field dominated by political newcomers.
“The only reason I voted for Malika was because of her experience,” he said. “The other candidates I didn’t know.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Light turnout reported in Alabama primary as voters head to polls