Heading to the polls
Some cities expect high turnouts

By Joel Hall


As five out of the six Clayton County municipalities prepare for citywide elections, poll managers and city officials are expecting a higher-than-average turnout this year.

On Tuesday, from 7 a.m,. to 7 p.m., the cities of Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lake City, Lovejoy, and Riverdale will hold elections to select new leadership.

Four cities -- Jonesboro, Riverdale, Lovejoy, and Lake City -- have races that will determine a mayor, although Lake City mayor Willie Oswalt is uncontested in his bid for re-election.

The city of Morrow will not have an election. No elected official had challengers this year.

Donna Nettleton, an absentee ballot clerk for the Jonesboro election, said, as of Friday, more than 100 people had either, voted early, or cast absentee ballots. She said that is about the same number of the people who came out for the last special election in Nov. 2003.

The election is "real active," said Nettleton. "We've had a larger turnout this year for advance and absentee voting. Anytime that you have a mayor and council [running for office], it's a big election."

Elections for the six-member Jonesboro City Council are staggered, so that three council members face challengers every two years, but with Luther Maddox quitting the council to run for mayor, there are four available seats in this election.

Sandra Norwood, elections superintendent for Forest Park, said that, as of Friday, a little more than 100 people voted in advance, as opposed to the 17 who voted in advance for the Sept. 18 special election.

"There is quite an influence from the candidates," in the increased number of voters in this election, said Norwood.

Marie Burnham, Lovejoy city clerk, said, "We've never had any advanced voters before. We've had absentee voting before, but not as many as in this," noting that, as of Friday afternoon, the city had 23 advanced votes and seven absentee votes.

"We've got a lot of candidates who are new to the city and they are trying to get a lot of community participation," said Burnham. "We have a lot of people that are more interested in the city than there used to be."

Jerry Garr, city manager of Lake City, said advance voter turnout was, "extremely light," compared to previous years. He hoped, however, that on Tuesday, many people would "vote and get their flu shot at the same time," as the city will administer flu shots to the general public, while ballots are cast this year.

"As far as I know of, we are the only city that is doing this," said Garr. "It's not just for Lake City residents. It's for anybody." He said the shots are free for people with Medicare or Medicaid, and $25 for those without it.

Stephanie Thomas, elections manager and clerk for the city of Riverdale, said advance voting has "been pretty average" with 80 absentee and advance votes combined.

"Historically, the people have never turned out," said Thomas. "It's always been under four percent, so hopefully people will come out to the polls."

Thomas expressed frustration that many Riverdale residents were, "not engaged in the process."

"They don't understand that local voting is the most important voting, because it affects the local quality of life," said Thomas. "They have council members who represent them all year long. This is the one time that they get to represent themselves."

Citywide Elections Polling Locations:

· Forest Park: Forest Park Recreation and Leisure Center, 803 Forest Parkway in Forest Park.

· Jonesboro: Clayton County Fire Station No. 13, 264 North Main St., Jonesboro.

· Lake City: Lake City Community Center, 5535 North Parkway in Lake City.

· Lovejoy: Lovejoy City Hall, 2601 Steele Road in Lovejoy.

· Riverdale: Riverdale City Hall, 6690 Church St., Riverdale.