Voter participation unlikely to exceed 15 percent, predicts county elections supervisor

Low turnout anticipated for runoffs, special election

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Although two significant statewide positions are on the ballot, Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk isn't expecting a deluge of local voters to head to the polls today.

"I am hoping to break 15 percent," he said, "which is very sad, but with the turnout we've seen so far, I don't think we're going to get overwhelmed."

With 37,441 ballots cast, about 58 percent of the county's registered voters participated in last month's midterm elections. Roughly 14 percent of Bartow's voters went to the polls for the May primaries, and less than 13 percent cast ballots in the subsequent July 24 runoffs. 

Up for grabs today are the office for Georgia's Secretary of State and the District 3 Public Service Commission (PSC) seat. In the former it's a showdown between John Barrow — a Democrat who previously represented Georgia's 12th congressional district — and District 50 State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (Republican, Johns Creek.) In the latter, it's Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton against Democratic challenger Lindy Miller to decide the commissioner who will represent Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton and Rockdale counties in the PSC, the quasi-legislative body that regulates the state's public utilities.

Kirk noted that a court order has extended the absentee ballot deadline for the runoffs until Friday.

"You have to turn the ballot in by election day either by dropping them in the mail or bringing them into the office — if you sent it to us in the mail, it has to be postmarked by election day, but it has until Friday to get to us," he said. "So you can't see the result and decide to send your ballot in." 

All of the regular polling places will remain open for today's runoff elections. A countywide list of polling locations is online at www.bartowga.org/departments/elections/polling_places.php.

"I think we're still having some confusion about Mission Road, that some voters who used to be registered at the Mission Road polling place when it was still at the school moved into Euharlee, some were moved to the Atco Baptist Church," Kirk said. "If someone who used to vote at Mission Road Elementary School does not know which place to go to, they can either call us or go online at the secretary of state's website and find out which location they need to be at."

As for the anticipated turnout for the Dec. 18 special election, Kirk said it's difficult to predict.

"I have no idea — I've never had an election like this to base that on," he said. "I think it's going to be very slow, both because there's confusion about what's going to be on what ballot [and] also the proximity to the holidays, voting's kind of the last thing on everybody's mind."

Four candidates have qualified for the special Republican primary to fill the District 14 State House vacancy left by former State Rep. Christian Coomer, who stepped down from the post upon being appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this year.

Contenders for the seat are Ken Coomer, Nickie Leighly, Mitchell Scoggins and Nathan Wilson.

The district essentially covers the northern half of the county, comprising all of Adairsville, Cassville, Folsom, Kingston, Pine Log and White.

"There is a small portion of Cartersville East that is eligible, but it's a very small portion, less than 100 people," Kirk noted. 

Those who would like to mail in an absentee ballot in the special election must submit a separate application.

"It's the same as any election, except there are no rollover applications," Kirk said. "So if you applied for a ballot earlier this year, and have been getting them automatically, you'll have to reapply for this election. But we've already started getting those applications in, we've already started sending ballots out — they will have until election day, as far as I know right now, to come in."

Advanced voting begins Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 14 at two locations. Voters at the county voter registration office at 1300 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. while voters at the Manning Mill Youth Facility at 163-B Manning Mill Road in Adairsville can head to the polls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Residents with questions or concerns about polling locations can contact the Bartow County Board of Elections and Voter Registration at (770) 387-5098 and access the secretary of state site at www.sos.ga.gov/index.php/elections.