Originally created 11/04/04

Columbia, Richmond county voters beat turnout records



Dressed in a black pant suit and fuzzy bedroom slippers, Columbia County Board of Elections Executive Director Debbie Marshall hopped into the lobby of her office in the waning hours of Tuesday's general election and exclaimed, "Eighty-two percent. Yes!"

The percentage of Columbia County voters to visit the polls Tuesday shattered the county's record of 64 percent, set in the 2000 general election. The 82.77 percent turnout also topped the statewide average by 10 percent.

"I've never seen a voter turnout that high, and I've been here 20 years," Mrs. Marshall said.

It wasn't the only record set Tuesday. In Richmond County, voter turnout was 79.1 percent, beating the record of 75 percent in 1992.

"This is an all-time record," said Lynn Bailey, the executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections, noting that 69,700 of the county's 88,113 voters turned out. "It's just phenomenal."

Mrs. Bailey credited the high voter turnout to an interesting ballot in Richmond County that offered not only a presidential race but also a question on a special purpose local option sales tax and a high profile race for the state Senate's District 22 seat.

"All that combined, it was a little something for everybody," she said.

probably not an all-time high, said Stuart Bedenbaugh, the executive director of the Aiken County Registration and Elections Commission.

In Columbia County, a hotly contested race for the presidency brought 47,295 of 57,137 registered voters to the polls, or 82.77 percent, according to county elections records.

"The people in this county wanted their voice to be heard," Mrs. Marshall said. "They wanted their vote to matter."

And in that heavily Republican county, President Bush easily won with 35,546 votes, equaling 75.31 percent. All Republican contenders facing Democrat opposition claimed victory in the county by gaining an average 76.51 percent of votes.

Statewide, the turnout, which is still considered unofficial, is at about 73 percent, which would tie the state's record, set in 1992, said Ava Turner, a spokeswoman for Georgia's Secretary of State office.

Ms. Turner said it will take a week before statewide tallies and turnout figures are officially registered, but she said Columbia County's 82 percent turnout is impressive.

"We're pretty much certain that would be one of the highest in the state," she said.

Staff Writer Tom Corwin contributed to this report.