published Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Early voting light for Tuesday's special elections

VOTING HOURS

Polls are open in Georgia Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tuesday is a statewide special election day in Georgia, and early voter turnout has been light for most of the few elections scattered in the state's northwest corner.

"It's very, very slow," Catoosa County elections clerk John Campbell said Friday afternoon as only 415 of the county's roughly 41,800 registered voters had cast early ballots for a 1 cent special purpose local option sales tax.

"One percent so far," Campbell said of the turnout around 1 p.m. "I think maybe we'll do 1,000 [voters] on election day."

Early turnout was better -- around 6 percent -- in the Fort Oglethorpe City Council race between veteran politician Judd Burkhart and newcomer Clay Kissner to fill temporarily the council seat left empty by Eddie Stinnett, who died of a heart attack.

Including absentee ballots, just more than 300 of the city's 4,675 active voters had cast a vote to fill Stinnett's seat for nine months. The winner will have to run again in November.

"We're doing really well with the early voting," Fort Oglethorpe Elections Superintendent Orma Luckey said.

In other elections scheduled Tuesday:

• Chattooga County is holding a 1 cent SPLOST vote to fund projects in the unincorporated county as well as the communities of Summerville, Trion, Lyerly and Menlo.

• The Summerville City Council is asking voters if they want to allow Sunday sales of liquor by the glass. Council put the matter on the ballot in hopes of generating revenue from sales tax on drinks and liquor permits -- and possibly attracting new restaurants. Summerville voters already approved by-the-glass sales of beer and wine about three years ago.

• Voters in Pickens County, home of Mount Oglethorpe, the southernmost peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains, will decide whether to approve Sunday package sales of beer and wine.

Early voting turnout had been light throughout the region.

"We've probably had 1 percent of votes come in," Pickens County elections official Betty Jones said Friday afternoon.

In Chattooga County, only 232 of 13,687 registered voters had cast ballots by around 2 p.m. Friday, Chief Registrar Elaine Pledger said.

That's about a 2 percent response. Turnout for special elections tends to be low, said Pledger, who's worked eight years helping run Chattooga County elections.

"I believe this is the lowest one so far I've ever witnessed," she said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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