By Greg Markley
Results of the delegate selections at the March 1 presidential preference primaries in Lee County at first may mislead people. For example, Opelikan Pat “Patsy” Jones received 18 percent of the votes in her quest to be a delegate backing Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention set for July in Philadelphia.
But that small percentage is deceptive, as Jones topped 20 other candidates from the 3rd Congressional District. She more than doubled her closest competitor, Gwendolyn Harris Brooks, who captured 8 percent. Brooks, also a Clinton backer, took second among female delegates. (Jones is Opelika’s City Council President Pro Tem and in her 21st year on the council.)
Former Secretary of State Clinton smothered Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont by nearly 3-1 in the Alabama presidential primary, 7,137-2,464. Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford edged attorney Fred Gray, Jr. by 3,872-3,673. But both earned delegate status. Seventeen others came up short in the 3rd Congressional District male delegate category.
“Candidates don’t really campaign that much in a delegate contest, though some have neighborhood phone banks,” reflected Randy Price, chairman of the Lee County Republican Party. “There are not many active delegate campaigns.”
In the March 1 Republican presidential preference primary, billionaire businessman Donald Trump captured 33 percent of the vote, followed by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas at 23 percent and Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio with 22.5 percent. Rubio has since suspended his White House quest.
Also in Opelika, in figures released by Lee County voting officials from the primary, voter turnout by location can be determined. Both Precinct 2 at Covington Park Community Center (27.5 percent) and Precinct 3, Opelika Learning Center (33 percent) fell below the 34 percent percentage turnout in the county as a whole.
Precinct 4 at Opelika Recreation Center had 39 percent of its 2,811 registered voters show up, while Precinct 5, EAMC Health Resource Center, and Precinct 6, Opelika SportsPlex, both had a higher turnout percentage than the county. Finally, Precinct 15 at Beauregard School Gym, with an Opelika address, hosted 38 percent of its 3,276 registered voters on March 1.
As Probate Judge Bill English has noted, Clarion Inn on South College Street in Auburn has the largest number of registered voters: 13,500, of any precinct in the county. That is Precinct 14. He also highlighted that Uptown Waverly, Precinct 8, has the smallest number of registered voters, just 380.
But in a strange election year, only 33 percent of the registered voters who might have voted at the Clarion Inn showed up. Yet in the smallest precinct, Uptown Waverly, 39 percent cast a ballot (5 percent more than the 34 percent turnout in the entire Lee County.) In Uptown Waverly, that meant 148 people out of 380 registered actually voted in the primary.
An old saying on voting runs: “Give those statisticians something to talk about, vote!” That is true in 2016, as the many candidates for delegate made winners’ percentages seem insignificant (see above). Plus, the variety in turnout among the 23 precincts (not counting Absentee and Provisional ballots) can be a conversation starter—or stopper.