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It doesn't get any more rural than this.
Allen County is a conservative community located at the mid-southern edge of Kentucky just a very few miles from the Tennessee state border. Not too far across the state line, at the outskirts of town, drivers get a big pro-life welcome. A Dorothy Gale-style figure says: "Mommie! Thank you for not aborting me!"
Scottsville, Kentucky, the seat of Allen County, dates back to 1815. As you get close to the core of the town it is not unusual to see antebellum wood frame houses punctuated with a few new brick structures. In December 1863 the area was the site of an attack by Confederate Colonel John M. Hughs, who captured a garrison of 86 Union soldiers.
The contemporary city had a 2000 census count of 4,327 people. The headcount for the county is a little bigger. County Clerk Beverly Calvert told me there are approximately 4,600 Democrats and 7,200 Republicans registered to vote. "No", she politely answered me, "there won't be any 'Limbaugh Effect' in Allen County." Or, for that matter, anywhere in Kentucky. State law requires people to have registered by party affiliation on or before January 1, 2008 in order to vote in today's (May 20) closed primaries. She was very inquisitive as to what I was up to but remarkably helpful after I had explained myself.
The courthouse is the site for voting in two precincts so I thought I would do a little exit polling. My figures are not to be confused with professional folks who do that sort of thing for a living. I make no pretenses of having produced a scientific sampling. My plus or minus is probably bigger than the number of people I interviewed. I didn't go there seeking raw numbers, I just had a curiosity for talking to folks about their voting.
At the courthouse, of the people I interviewed, 37.5 percent were Democrat and 62.5 percent were Republican, a split very much in keeping with the registration percentages. All of the Republicans voted for John McCain although one lady surprised me when she said she is undecided for the general election.
Hold up the first finger of either of your hands. That is the total number of people who voted for Barack Obama. Michael Cherry told me why he voted for the senator from Illinois, "I think he is better equipped and has more concern for this country. Hillary is too tied to the corporate world."
Most of the people voting for Clinton cited her experience. What I found to be the most interesting bit of information, however, is that every Democrat I talked to at the courthouse will vote for the Democratic Party ticket in November even if Obama is the nominee. One man said it almost grudgingly, he made it clear that he just didn't like Obama, but nevertheless he was definite about voting for the Democratic candidate in the fall.
From the courthouse I went back out to the highway and headed back toward Tennessee. I stopped in at Fire Station #2 about a quarter of a mile off the highway. Every one I talked to there was a Democrat and every one of them voted for Clinton. Only one woman told me that she would make an individual choice for the general election. All of the rest said they would stay with the Democratic ticket in November even if Obama is the nominee.
I hadn't been at the fire station very long though before a seemingly grumpy older man poked his head out the door and asked me what I was doing. When I explained that I was exit polling he made it clear that he wasn't going to waste a lot of time with me. I had to go out to the highway, he said, and he wasn't entertaining any response from me about it.
I knew from talking with Ms. Calvert that the actual requirement was 300 feet which is what I was observing. I also knew that if I were to sit out at the highway the only thing the voters would be interested in at that point would be merging with traffic.
But, I didn't see anything to be gained by arguing with an irascible old man. I had pretty much gotten a sense of the electorate at that point and, after all, that was what I really wanted.
Beverly Calvert, Allen County Clerk, was nice enough to email me the primary election results which show a lackluster turnout for the Republican Party which has a clear majority in voter registrations. In the presidential primaries there were a total of 1,292 GOP votes compared to 1,689 Democratic votes. Overall, there was a turnout percentage of 24 percent.
The anomaly created by that turnout figure is that Hillary Clinton received more votes than John McCain. Clinton got 1,354 votes which represent 80 percent of the Democratic turnout. McCain, in turn, received 956 votes representing 74 percent of the Republican total.
The rest of the Democratic result was Barack Obama, 15 percent; John Edwards, 3 percent; and uncommitted, 2 percent. The Republicans had a similar field result with Mike Huckabee, 9 percent; Ron Paul, 7 percent; Mitt Romney, 4 percent; uncommitted, 4 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 1 percent; and Alan Keyes, a little under 1 percent.
The Kentucky statewide result for the Democrats was Clinton 65 percent and Obama 30 percent which was achieved by rural communities like Scottsville joining up to overcome the votes garnered in the limited number of metropolitan areas.
Images: R.T. Eby
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