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Three ride voter turnout to victory in South Boston / May 21, 2020

Two challengers and an incumbent won seats on South Boston Town Council on Tuesday as voter turnout doubled from two years ago.

The winners in South Boston are Council incumbent Robert “Bob” Hughes and two first-time candidates for local office, Tommy Elliott and Joe Chandler.

Hughes topped the six-candidate field with 503 votes with Elliott garnering the next highest vote total, 475. Chandler took 441 votes to claim the third open seat on Council.

Falling short in their bids for re-election were Tina Wyatt-Younger, also South Boston’s vice mayor, and fellow Council incumbent Michael Byrd. They and Harriett Jennings Claiborne filled out the field of candidates in South Boston.

Wyatt-Younger tallied 405 votes, Claiborne received 370 votes and Byrd got 342 votes.

Mayor Ed Owens, running unopposed for re-election, received 713 votes, with town residents casting 39 write-in ballots. When the newly constituted Council is seated July 1, Owens and Council member Sharon Harris will be the only African-American members after the losses by Wyatt-Younger and Byrd.

Voter turnout was up significantly from 2018 when South Boston Council races were last part of the ballot. That year, Byrd, running in a special election, topped the ticket with 377 votes. By contrast, there were 907 town citizens who cast votes in the South Boston race Tuesday, either by going to the polls on a dreary day or by casting absentee ballots ahead of time.

The Town of South Boston has 4,907 registered voters, according to county Voter Registrar Heather Harding.

In the Town of Scottsburg, a smattering of voters turned out for Council elections there. Six candidates were seeking five seats on Scottsburg Town Council. Russell Puckett Jr. was the top vote-getter with 24 votes, followed by Connie Glass with 23 votes and Robert Elliott with 22 votes. James Stoner and Joe Allred III took the final two seats with 20 and 12 votes, respectively. Ronnie Myers Jr. received one vote.

James Gordon, the sole candidate listed on the ballot for Scottsburg mayor, won with 14 votes. Town residents cast 11 write-in ballots, all for Wayne Smith.

Poll workers in South Boston reported a steady volume of voters at the old armory, now the South Boston Recreation Center, despite the cold rain that fell much of the day.

“It’s been a steady turnout, people are eager to vote,” said Ellen Kent, Secretary of the Electoral Board.

By 2 p.m., 309 ballots had been cast in South Boston — around two-thirds of the 477 votes at the 801 precinct by the end of the day. Voters 308 and 309 were Crystal Ragsdale, 26, and her brother Travon Ragsdale, 24 years old. “We’ve been voting since we were 18,” said Crystal Ragsdale.

Harding said 430 votes in South Boston were cast via absentee ballot, including by 15 people who turned up Tuesday at the Bethune Complex to vote. They were directed to the South Boston Rec Center by members of the registrar’s office.

The local election board took several precautions to ensure voter safety amid the pandemic — giving out disposable pens for each voter to mark their ballots with, and placing plexiglass shields in front of the precinct workers who were tasked with checking voter information.

In Scottsburg, poll worker April Throckmorton said turnout was low because of the rain, but also due to COVID-19. Of the public health precautions in place at the Scottsburg precinct station, “that you will probably see again in the fall election,” she said.

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