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Election Supervisor shares optimism ahead of ‘22 primaries

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/17/22

CLAY COUNTY – The election world and voting itself were very different four years ago.

The Primary Election Day is Aug. 23, but Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless appeared optimistic about …

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Election Supervisor shares optimism ahead of ‘22 primaries


CLAY COUNTY – The election world and voting itself were very different four years ago.

The Primary Election Day is Aug. 23, but Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless appeared optimistic about a higher turnout this year compared to the 2018 election primaries. Early voting is underway for several primary races with the polls kicking off on Aug. 13.

Greater participation in the vote by mail is a stark change from four years ago, Chambless said.

Turnout prognostications are always difficult, Chambless said. Election day is huge. He said in 2018, about 48.34% of total voters cast ballots before the primary election day. The turnout for that year was 27%.

However, Chambless said, the primary turnout was as low as 17% in 2014. A 28-30% primary turnout is expected this year.

“So, we’re going to be better than average, but then the question becomes what happened to the 70% of people who stayed at home?” Chambless asked. “That’s the question we always look to.”

The 2018 gubernatorial primary received 10,295 ballots by mail. This year, that figure was almost equaled three days into early voting.

“If the trend continues, we’re looking at a 25% return compared to the 2018 primary,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a difficult thing to estimate, but based on what we know today, it looks stronger.”

Voter misinformation is a key target for Chambless and his constituents. Recently, he said he was asked about ballot harvesting and other false claims of voter fraud.

“Vote by mail didn’t have the scarlet letter that it has now with 2020,” Chambless said. “Things are easy to say and difficult to prove, that’s the way these conspiracies get wheels. You don’t have to prove anything. You just have to suggest. That goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, when Eve asked, ‘Did (God) really say we can’t eat from a particular tree?’”

Chambless said he was pleased with the business side of the election. Previously, his staff would print ballots for all possible 160,000-plus voters, even for primaries, where the aforementioned 70% might not vote.

He said ballots can be printed at precincts on-site, meaning there are no more empty ballots left to be destroyed. Those blank ballots can be repurposed in fewer than three months for the general election.

Chambless said ballot paper is being affected by the supply chain crisis like several other items; ballots are about $.37 a piece.

“That’s $41,699 we would have spent on unused ballots. To add insult to injury, I would have to pay to have the blank ballots destroyed. Now, we only print when the voter is authenticated,” Chambless said. “It’s just smart business.”

The primaries will see two pairs of Republican county commission candidates contest two seats. Alexandra Compere faces Rodney Herring in the Oakleaf-based District 2, though the winner will oppose Democrat Leroy Edwards in November. For the Keystone Heights and Middleburg-based District 4, incumbent Betsy Condon will contest fellow Republican Dale Carter.

The Clay County School District, non-partisan, has one three-candidate race and two two-person races. In District 1, incumbent Janice Kerekes will go up against Charles Kirk and Erin Skipper. Incumbents Tina Bullock and Ashley Gilhousen will face candidates Michele Hanson and Gerald Beasley, respectively, to retain their seats in Districts 1 and 4.

An important County Court Judge Group 1 vacancy is also being contested between Tonya Barge, Raymond Forbess and Geraldine Hartin.

More voting resources are available at clayelections.gov.