election turnout

Campaign signs were placed outside the polling place at the Dadeville Recreation Center on Tuesday as voters cast ballots in the 2020 General Election. Voters were lined up as the polls opened at 7 a.m. but the wait was never long.

Tallapoosa County voters voiced their opinion in record numbers in the 2020 General Election.

Nearly two of three registered voters in Tallapoosa County cast ballots Tuesday. The 65.64% turnout eclipses the 45% who cast ballots for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Tuesday, 19,108 of Tallapoosa County’s 31,936 registered voters cast ballots in person. A record breaking 1,856 cast votes by absentee ballots. To top it all off, Tallapoosa County officials were done tabulating the votes in record time — just two hours after the polls closed.

The feat pleasantly surprised Tallapoosa County Probate Judge Talmadge East whose office oversees elections.

“I think considering the record turnout and done by 9 p.m. is great,” East said. “The credit goes to the probate office staff and the poll workers. They did all of the work.”

Tuesday’s election also saw 814 more registered voters than in the March primary — a 2.61% increase.

Across the state, turnout was at 51.45% as of press time, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's website.

“Following the reporting of results by all 67 counties, I remain confident we will shatter every record in the history of the state during (Tuesday’s) election, which would not have been possible without the help of every single election worker, volunteer and voter. Thank you, Alabama,” Secretary of State’s John Merrill said in a statement Tuesday night.

Tallapoosa County Circuit Clerk Patrick Craddock oversees the absentee ballot process through his office, which had 2,080 filled requests for absentee ballots. Of those, 1,856 ballots were returned and counted. The total counts about 20 military ballots for Tallapoosa County soliders stationed across the United States and abroad.

Two weeks ago, about 1,300 applications for absentee ballot had been made.

Just four years ago, Craddock said his office didn’t know the absentee total with 869 absentee ballots counted until 3 a.m.

The difference was simple — starting the count a couple hours earlier. Craddock said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued a statement absentee counting could start at 7 a.m. instead of noon on the day of the election. Craddock said poll officials started counting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“It worked out real well,” Craddock said. “Counting the absentees went smooth. I’m pleased. Everything went as planned.”

Craddock said fewer than 100 absentee ballots were rejected “because there was not substantial compliance.” Craddock said the main issues with rejected ballots were missing a signature or witness.

Craddock said military ballots come in two forms when they are returned to his office.

“Their ballots can be transmitted to them electronically,” Craddock said. “If they are in the U.S., they print them out and mail them in. If they are overseas, they can send them back electronically and we print them out.”

Craddock said the electronic ballots are encrypted using a third party to ensure no issues.

Looking back at past elections, Tuesday was definitely record breaking in Tallapoosa County. In 2016 about 45% of registered voters turned out in what was considered a good turnout. Just eight months ago in the March primary, only 8,019 ballots were cast by only 34.45% of Tallapoosa County’s 31,122 voters. The postponed July Republican runoff saw only 6,057 ballots cast or 19.33% turnout in a race to decide Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions, who would be the opponent of Democrat U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in Tuesday’s election. In 2018, Tallapoosa County only had 27.48% of its registered voters turnout to decide Alabama State House District 81 between Democrat Jeremy Jeffcoat and Republican Ed Oliver.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.