Oxford citizens turned out in droves to vote in the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday, surpassing 2014 midterm voting totals two hours before the polls closed. Voters faced long lines, reported voting machine malfunctions and found limited parking at polling places throughout the historic Election Day.
A total of 16,517 votes were cast in Lafayette County on Election Day, a 69.8 percent increase from the 9,728 votes cast in the 2014 U.S. Senate race between Travis Childers, Thad Cochran and Shawn O’Hara. The total from Tuesday night does not include affidavit ballots, which will be released on Wednesday morning.
Tuesday’s turnout was only about 3,100 voters less than the 2016 presidential election in which 19,643 people cast their ballots in Lafayette County.
According to unofficial election results released Tuesday night, 30,841 people in the county are registered to vote. These voters turned out at an above average rate of 53.56 percent.
Lafayette voters favored Democrat Mike Espy in the special election. He received 44.65 percent of the vote while incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith secured 42.02 percent. The two are set to face off in a state runoff election on Nov. 27.
Incumbent Republican Roger Wicker received 56.09 percent of the vote in Lafayette County in the general election. He was named the winner in the statewide election, beating Democrat David Baria, who received 42.3 percent of Lafayette County’s vote.
Voters at Oxford’s five precincts faced long lines throughout the day — in some cases waiting up to an hour to cast their vote.
Early in the day at Lafayette Civic Club, a new polling place as of this election, lines of cars backed up to Highway 6, prompting some to turn away. Lafayette Sheriff deputies were on hand later in the day to help traffic and assist with parking problems.
Some of the voting machines at Lafayette Civic Club were plagued by technical difficulties, keeping the location from running at full capacity for part of the morning.
Several voters reported having issues finding their correct polling place or being directed to a new location despite not having changed their home address. William Panlener, 30, said it took him three hours to find the correct polling station. He wound up voting at Precinct 5.
Confusion among Oxford citizens on Election Day wasn’t limited to the physical voting process, however.
Brenda Mansell, a poll watcher for the Democratic Party at Precinct 5, said there was some confusion about the rules regarding their roles.
She said the poll watchers were stationed too far from the sign-in tables to effectively monitor the process.
“We might as well have been in the bathroom with the door closed,” Mansell said. “I think the public needs to know that we were not allowed to hear or see what was going on the way the rules say we should’ve been.”
Mansell said her Republican counterpart at Precinct 5 shared her concerns.
Daily Mississippian reporters polled voters at Oxford’s five precincts as they exited throughout the day. Voters were asked why they turned out to vote.
“Everybody should vote,” Chianne Peyton, 23, said. “It’s my first time voting, and a lot of people say your vote doesn’t count, so I’m making sure mine does.”
Bailey Moorhead, 28, said young voters can make a difference when they actually get out to the polls.
“Voting is so important because there are so many young people and so few of us actually turn out to vote, and we have a lot of responsibility,” Moorhead said.
Voters also weighed in on the issues they care about most.
Ana Martinez, a 25-year-old journalism graduate student, said Trump’s immigration policy motivated her to vote. She said some members of her family are undocumented, and she wants them to be protected.
“My dad was born in this country, but his parents were (immigrants),” Martinez said. “I want them to stay.”
Oxford residents Ben and Kathy Griffith went to the polls together and said they voted Democrat. The issues they said they care about most are immigration, healthcare and the economy.
“We want the country to move back to its center,” Kathy Griffith said. “We are Democratic down to our toes, and I hope the president gets a real awakening tonight.”
Gray Houser, a 19-year-old public policy major at Ole Miss, said he voted for Chris McDaniel in the special election because of one-on-one interactions with the candidate. He said he supported McDaniel in 2014, as well, even though he wasn’t old enough to vote at the time.
Oxford resident Judy Dale, 92, voted for Mike Espy and said this election is important to her personally.
“At my age, I may never vote again,” Dale said. “I think it is very important. I hope my group wins.”