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Early voting is under way
July 15 ballot brimming with races for county office
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Forsyth County News

With early voting for the July 15 primary beginning today, Forsyth County's election office is prepared to handle crowds of any size.

But if Chief Voter Registrar Gary J. Smith's predictions are correct, this election may be a slow one.

"I actually thought there would be a lot more interest in this election," Smith said. "But at this point in time, I see the potential for a low turnout.

"Hopefully, that's not the case, because we're prepared for a much larger turnout."

The lull, he said, likely has little to do with local candidates or open races. After checking with counties across the state, Smith said the same turnout expectation seems to be statewide.

"In all of the counties, there just doesn't seem to be the level of interest in the general primary election," he said. "The only thing we've surmised is that people got excited about the presidential preference."

They certainly did in Forsyth County, which drew a 48 percent turnout for a Feb. 5 election that also featured separate referendums on a 1-cent sales tax and parks and recreation bond.

Between early voting week and Election Day, the primary election is costing the county about $80,000, Smith said.

The cost could be higher in the event of an Aug. 5 runoff election, which seems a near certainty given the number of hopefuls in several races. In particular, two of the county commission contests -- District 2 and 5 -- each feature four candidates.

"I'm expecting runoffs," Smith said. "I would say any of the races with four or more candidates are going to have a runoff. It's pretty hard to get 50 percent of the vote on a four-person race. Even with three or more, it's a possibility.

"It really depends on the race and the strengths of the candidates."

Both the races for clerk of Superior Court and sheriff have three candidates.

If the primary election draws a 20 percent voter turnout, Smith said a runoff would be lucky to get 7 percent.

While turnout likely would be lower, Smith said a runoff election still would cost about $30,000.

"Just the act of having it, you've got to open up for early voting again," he said. "You've got to buy ballots and then you have to staff every precinct on Election Day.

"I could be way off though. Honestly, I hope I am way off. I hope turnout is much more than that for both the election and the runoff. My comment has always been if you don't vote, don't complain."