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SPLOST election voter registration deadline near

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton residents, who want to vote next month on whether to continue the school system's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), but are not yet registered, have only a few more days do so.

"The deadline to register is coming up, and they need to be registered by midnight on Aug. 17, to vote in this election," said Annie Bright, director of the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration. "The application has to be postmarked by midnight."

The single-issue, special election, in which voters are asked to decide whether the SPLOST that Clayton County Public Schools currently has in place should be extended for five years, will take place on Sept. 15. It is the only issue that will be on the ballot for that election, Bright said.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent, special sales tax. The school system's current SPLOST is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, and an extension of the tax would bring in an expected $280.25 million, according to school officials.

The district is seeking to pay for construction of a 6th-through-12th-grade charter school; nine auxiliary gymnasiums (one per high school); the purchase of land and new school buses; and the renovation and upgrading of existing schools, according to a sample ballot for the special election.

The question on the ballot also includes a passage concerning completion of "one new elementary school currently under construction." School System Spokesman Charles White said the school in question is an elementary school the district plans to build next to Charles R. Drew High School on Garden Walk Boulevard in Riverdale.

The school is currently being designed, but would be built using money from the extended SPLOST -- if the measure is approved by voters, White said.

Bright said there has not been a spike in the number of people registering to vote in the county since her office announced the election last month. There are 144,458

registered voters in Clayton County as of Aug. 1, she said.

In-person absentee voting for the special election began two weeks ago at the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration office, which is located at 121 South McDonough Street, in Jonesboro, but Bright said only "about four or five" people have voted by absentee ballot so far.

Bright said that was not out of the ordinary for a special election, and pointed to the last single-subject, county-wide special election, the March 20, 2007 Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) vote as a sign that turnout is usually low for special elections.

In that election, 6,814 voters, out of 131,794 registered voters, cast ballots, Bright said. That equals a 5.17 percent voter turnout.

Advance voting is scheduled to take place Sept. 8-11 at the board of elections and registration office.