Primary election turnout in Cape Girardeau County good

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Song Machon takes a ballot to vote after registering in Precinct 7 at the Arena Building Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Area voters turned out in steady numbers Tuesday morning, drawn by several hotly contested legislative and county level races and a Missouri Constitution measure that establishes protections for people to pray in public.

By noon, Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers reported said that the county's 29 precincts were reporting that they were "very busy" and Summers was still hopeful that her prediction of 35 percent voter turnout would come to bear. At precincts 16 and 17 at the Arena Building, for example, more than 650 people had cast ballots after five hours of voting.

"It's been busy all over," Summers said.

Voters had several choices to make Tuesday, with the first being to choose a ballot for any party or ask for an issues-only ballot. Because Missouri operates under the open primary system, voters can consider themselves a member of one party and vote in another.

Ballots across Southeast Missouri offered voters a number of choices, including seats for the Missouri Legislature and several county-level contested races for county commissioner, assessor, sheriff and public administrator.

Also on the ballot are several statewide races, including a GOP Senate primary contest and races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The polls remain open until 7 p.m. tonight. Results weren't likely to be known in Cape Girardeau County until about 9 p.m.

Several voters said Tuesday they were particularly interested in the Missouri Senate race between Republicans Wayne Wallingford and Ellen Brandom of Sikeston. The two are sitting Missouri House members who hope to switch chambers and fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, who is being forced out by term limits.

Robyn Martin, 30, of Cape Girardeau, voted for Wallingford at St. Andrew Lutheran Church's precinct 14. She described Wallingford as a "stand up kind of guy."

"He is the one we should want speaking for us," Martin said.

Martin didn't care for Brandom's political ads that targeted Wallingford, a 25-year Air Force veteran. The spots claimed that Wallingford would be beholden to organized labor because he accepted donations from area unions. That didn't hold water with Martin.

"I've heard the negative ads and it's so frustrating. I know him and what the ads say is just not right."

Adam Topping, 31, of Cape Girardeau voted for Brandom, but the ads -- which he says were slung by both sides -- made the choice more difficult.

"I wish there was a candidate C," Topping said. "That's who would have gotten my vote."

Election workers in Jackson said turnout was typical for a primary. By 3 p.m., about 500 people had cast ballots at the New McKendree Methodist Church-Annex. Many voters said the public administrator race brought them to the polls today.

"There are a lot of people wanting that job, so it must be pretty important," said a Jackson man who asked that his name not be used.

Robert Sizemore said he planned to vote for Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, who is seeking a second term representing the 146th district in the Missouri House of Representatives.

"She's got more experience since she's been doing it for a while now," Sizemore said.

Another man, who asked not to be named, said he was voting for Gerald Adams because of his background in agriculture and experience on the Jackson School Board.

Jim Pruitt of Cape Girardeau said he made the trip to the polls especially to vote for U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in her bid for a ninth term. He saw her television ads and thought she'd be a better candidate than her two-time challenger, Bob Parker of Texas County. He heard Parker's criticisms that Emerson is not conservative enough and he wasn't buying it.

"With all that's going on, we need her experience."

Tammy Sellers made it a point to vote for Amendment 2, the public prayer ballot issue that would also allow students to refrain from class work that violates their religious beliefs.

"I believe voting 'yes' is the Christian thing to do," Sellers said. "We have a right to worship in public whenever we want to."

Leonard and Sharon Dreyer voted no on Amendment 2, citing concerns with the ballot language.

"There are a lot of fine lines there that could open the door for too many other things," Leonard Dreyer said.

Staff writers Scott Moyers, Melissa Miller and Erin Ragan contributed to this report.

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