By CARL SMITH
An official election summary shows a higher percentage of outlying Oktibbeha County voters cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary than Starkville residents. Although county turnout was at a higher percentage, former Sen. Rick Santorum’s county lead was overturned by a strong pro-Mitt Romney vote in Starkville.
Of the 13 county voting precincts, eight polling locations reported 20 to 30 percent voter turnout. Sturgis/North Bradley (63.97 percent) and Craig Springs/South Bradley (40.87 percent) reported the highest percentage of voter turnout in Oktibbeha County, according to the official county election results.
In Starkville, only two of the eight voting precincts reported voter turnouts of 20 percent or higher. The lowest turnout percentage was recorded at the East Starkville precinct where 35 ballots were cast out of 761 registered voters — a 4.6 percent turnout.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Associated Press called the overall Mississippi presidential primary for Santorum. With 99.9 percent of statewide precincts reporting Wednesday, Santorum led former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich by almost 5,000 votes. Romney held third place over Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, by almost 76,000 votes.
Santorum’s path to first place was paved with victories in the northeastern and east-central portion of the state. As of Wednesday, he held leads in 34 counties including Lee, Winston, Attala, Webster, Choctaw, Montgomery, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Monroe, Pontotoc and Lauderdale counties. Gingrich had wins in many of the counties surrounding Hattiesburg and also led in Clay, Lowndes and Noxubee counties while Romney led in many Delta counties and the Jackson metro area.
In outlying Oktibbeha County precincts, Santorum finished first with Gingrich only 31 votes behind. Romney fell 49 votes shy of Santorum but was able to pull in 243 more Starkville votes than the eventual state winner.
County voters cast 511 votes for Santorum, 480 for Gingrich and 462 for Romney. Santorum captured six precinct victories while Gingrich won four and Romney held three. Santorum’s biggest percentage win — 42 votes at 44.68 percent — came in the Craig Springs/South Bradley precinct while his strongest showing — 87 votes total — happened at the Sturgis/North Bradley precinct.
Starkville voters cast 855 votes for Romney, 612 for Santorum and 531 for Gingrich.
Santorum, had his strongest showing based on percentage in North Starkville District 2 with 32.73 percent — 18 votes — and his largest vote tally — 235 votes or 27.71 percent — at the South Starkville precinct. Romney finished first in each city precinct except for North Starkville District 2, which Santorum and Gingrich tied for first with 18 votes each, and East Starkville, which Paul won with eight votes. Santorum finished in second or tied for second place in five of the eight city precincts.