One Gulfport voting precinct is outperforming all the others in terms of early voter participation.
More than 230 Gulfport voters had returned a mail ballot in Precinct 208 as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s more than any other Gulfport precinct by at least 150 depending on the precinct. The returned ballots represent total voter turnout of 9.52 percent in that precinct with a little over two weeks still left to return them.
The disparity in turnout could be the potential result of several factors. First, Precinct 208 covers Gulfport’s Ward 1 currently represented by City Councilman Dan Liedtke who is seeking re-election against challenger April Thanos. Voters could be engaged in that race.
While the disparity in turnout among Gulfport precincts doesn’t necessarily guarantee one candidate an edge over the other, the argument can be made that increased turnout could favor one or the other.
For Liedtke, there’s the inherent advantage to being an incumbent. He likely has high name recognition in his community as a sitting council member. Supporters could be turning out to ensure he maintains the seat.
On the other hand, voters could be anxious to cast a ballot for a new City Council member. High voter turnout is often an indicator of a voting populous harboring misgivings about current representation.
Then there are demographics. Precinct 208 contains most of Gulfport’s priciest homes. Most of the city’s waterfront homes are located in that precinct. Other parts of the city, particularly portions to the north of that precinct, are home to lower income residents.
Income is a key factor in voter turnout. The group Non-Profit Vote found there was a 20-point gap between voter turnout among high-income and low-income voters. Simply put, well-off voters hit the polls substantially more than those who are poor.
Election Day is March 15, but voters can return mail ballots now. One can be requested on the Supervisor of Elections website. Gulfport voters will also choose whether to re-elect Mayor Sam Henderson or replace him with restaurant owner Barbara Banno.
Registered Democrats and Republicans will also vote in the Presidential Preference Primary. Countywide, more than 23,000 voters have returned ballots as of Tuesday. That represents 11.35 percent of those who had requested them.