Voters flocked to the polls Tuesday amid heated political races

Published 5:13 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Voter turnout for party primaries in Jefferson County was brisk, even record setting for the Republican Party, but even so not even a third of the county’s registered voters went to the polls.

Of the 144,998 registered voters in Jefferson County, 42,141, or 29.06 percent, cast their ballots either during the early voting period, or on Election Day.

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For each party, the number of voters signified what they believe will be an even larger turnout in November when the nation decides a new president and on a local level a new sheriff will be determined.

“We were definitely very busy. The poll workers worked their hearts out. We had lines all day in some places,” Theresa Goodness, chief deputy with the Jefferson County District’s Clerk, said.

The Port Arthur Public Library was very busy with 1,200 people voting there. Hughes Library in Nederland was also busy on Election Day with about 1,000 voters casting their ballots.

Rogers Park in Beaumont had the most voters Tuesday, about 1,800. Many of those saw the long lines and spilled out to the Amelia polling place where some waited in line until 10 p.m. to cast their ballots.

Port Arthur’s Memorial Ninth Grade Center with 328 people and the Willie Ryman Center in Port Arthur with 88 people were also busy.

“If it was below 200 then that was one of our slower polling places,” Goodness said.

The county’s Democratic Party numbered the most people going to the polls with 22,982 casting their votes for races ranging from the top political office in the land to numerous local races.

Data provided by the Jefferson County Clerk’s office showed Democratic voters since 2012 have increased their numbers at the polls, but have not risen to the 42,730 voting in 2008 when newcomer to the political landscape Barack Obama sought his party’s nomination for U.S. president

By 2010, Democratic voters numbered 18,373 in the March Primary, then down to 14,311 in 2012. 2014, a non-presidential year, marked the lowest in the time period with only 12,155 Democrats going to the polls.

The number of Republicans voting Tuesday was closing in on the Democrats with only a 3,733 difference.

The number of Republicans going to the polls Tuesday reflected an increase each primary election.

In 2008, 7,655 Republican voters went to the polls, 9,035 in 2010, 11,482 in 2012, 10,748 in 2014 and 19,159 in 2016.

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Dr. Garrett Peel said a surge in the party’s voters, which resulted in Tuesday’s record breaking approximate 60 percent increase in voters over the 2014 party primary, was largely the result of Americans who want change in leadership, not only locally, but nationally as well.

“The conservative message is resonating both at the national and local level as Republicans move us toward a future of prosperity and safety,” he said in a press statement.

Denise Truncale, first vice-president with the Golden Triangle Republican Women, said the group of about 160 women from all over Jefferson and Orange County, have worked during past years to build the party, to support party candidates and get them elected.

“We are very pleased with the election outcome and feel very much like our candidates will have greater success in November. We have a wonderful candidate in Ray Beck for Sheriff and are 100 percent behind his candidacy.

Truncale said she felt like the current atmosphere surrounding the Republican presidential race would smooth itself out after a nomination is made.

“There is always a time when you have so many candidates to where it splinters, but I feel like the Republican Party will get behind the last man standing and support them,” she said. “I just think the Republican Party is on the march in Jefferson County and we are all very excited what the future holds.”

Republican Precinct Conventions are scheduled for 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday at Regions V (Edison Plaza) Dogwood Room, 350 Pine Street, Beaumont.

This year all Republican Precinct Conventions will be on the say day, at the same time and at the same location.

Democratic Party Chair elect Cade Bernsen, who won Tuesday’s election by defeating the incumbent Sheila Louviere Sachitano by a vote of 10,933, or 60.87 percent to 7,028, or 39.13 percent.

Bernsen will start his chairmanship on June 1.

“We are very pleased with the robust strong turnout among Democrats,” Bernsen said. “There are a lot of people enthusiastic about our party, a lot that are very interested in what is going to happen in November.”

He expects those who voted Tuesday to vote again in November.

“The way we look at it is if you come and participate in the primary, you are invested and will vote again in November,” he said.

Bernsen theorized that both the presidential race and the sheriff’s race brought Democratic voters to the polls.

“We had three good candidates running hard races for sheriff. All three have strong ties in the community. I think that is a huge factor in pushing the vote out. The County Commissioner’s race in Port Arthur also helped turn the vote out, as did the constable’s race and the County Court at Law race.

As far as the presidential race, a lot of people are feeling “the Bern,” and there are a lot of Hillary supporters.

“I believe in the fall the Democrats will really be going to the polls. What’s coming out of Trump’s mouth and Cruz’ its just scaring us, just some scary stuff so I think its firing the Democrats up to come out and vote,” Bernsen said.


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