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Early voting turnout lower than expected
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With less than two weeks left before Election Day, the steady stream of early voters at the Dawson County Board of Elections has almost dried up.


Elections Supervisor Glenda Ferguson said early voting turnout started off with a bang as local candidates and their die-hard supporters, along with several voters who had already made up their minds, filed in to cast their ballots.


In addition to state and regional races, there are 10 candidates on the special election ballot for Dawson County Clerk of Court and three candidates running for the Dawson County Board of Commissioners District 3 seat.


“People are waiting this time ... maybe waiting on the upcoming political forums to hear what the candidates have to say. I don’t know,” Ferguson said.


Two forums are scheduled this week, one at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Big Canoe’s Broyles Center and one at 6 p.m. Friday at Dawson County Middle School, to give voters a chance to meet some of the local candidates.


A third forum, featuring candidates for the District 3 commission seat, will be held  at 7 p.m. next Thursday at the Bowen Center for the Arts during the Dawson County Republican Party’s meeting.


While the early voting numbers have been less than expected with only about 4.5 percent of the county’s 14,328 registered voters already making their pick, the number of residents registering to vote in the upcoming election seemed on the rise.


“I think I’ve been more surprised with the increase in those registering to vote than the number of early voters,” Ferguson said, who saw a 3-5 percent increase in voters registering to vote between June 9 and the June 21 deadline.


About 31 percent of voters cast their ballots early for the 2008 General Primary in Dawson County, according to county records.


Voters have until 5 p.m. July 16 to cast an early ballot at the Elections Office, 96 Academy Avenue, for the July 20 General Primary and Special Election.


The East Precinct located at the new Fire Station No. 2 near the intersection of Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 53 East will be used for the first time as a voting location that day.


Other polling places are the election office on Academy Ave. and Fire Station No. 6 outside Big Canoe.


Ferguson said she would be surprised if there is not a runoff in the clerk of courts race with 10 candidates on the ballot. A candidate has to receive 50 percent plus one vote to secure the win.


The top two vote getters would go to a runoff on Aug. 10. In the event of a tie for second place, there would be three candidates on the runoff ballot.