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Turnout uncertain in local elections

By Justin Boron

Election officials geared up for local elections Monday evening, setting up poll machines and readying ballots for voting that begins at 7 a.m. today.

Forest Park, Riverdale, Morrow, Lake City, and Jonesboro will hold elections featuring mostly city council races.

But election officials can't say whether voters will come out en masse or ignore the elections altogether.

Weather shouldn't be a problem. Forecasters predict partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 80s.

In Jonesboro, a faction of citizens and the mayor have traded blows over the City Council's decision to dispense with the city's volunteer fire department.

Joanie Jones, the city election superintendent, said she is expecting a large turnout. So far, the city has taken 80 absentee and advance ballots.

Other local election officials said there just isn't any way to predict how many voters will show up.

A political science professor said don't bet on seeing long lines like the ones that wrapped around buildings during last year's presidential election.

Since local government is the most direct way for voters to make change, it would seem that local elections would have a large turnout, said Joseph Corrado, an assistant political science professor at Clayton State University.

But that isn't the case, he said.

Corrado said what usually galvanizes voters is the contention and pressing issues that come up during presidential or statewide elections.

Because there aren't any major issues to compel voters, participation in local elections typically doesn't match their importance, Corrado said.

“It's very difficult, unless you know someone on one of these boards, to get people interested in the local elections,” he said.

Corrado said he wouldn't expect a local elections to have a turnout above 25 percent.

All municipal elections in Clayton County are citywide, meaning anyone registered within the city can vote. In Forest Park, any city voter can vote in the mayor's race. But only those registered within wards 1 or 2 can vote in their respective council races.

For a list of accepted forms of ID at the polls, visit the Elections page of the Secretary of State's Web site at www.sos.state.ga.us.

The following are the addresses for polling locations and the number of registered voters in each city.

Jonesboro- 1,567 Fire Station, 264 N. Main St.

Lake City- 1,144 Old City Hall, 5535 North Parkway

Morrow- 2,320 City Hall, 1500 Morrow Road

Forest Park- 6,601 Forest Park Recreation Center, 803 Forest Parkway

Riverdale- 7,266 City Hall, 6,690 Church St.