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Voter turnout mixed in Tuesday elections

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Voter turnout in municipal elections, and a state House of Representatives special election, varied across Clayton County on Tuesday, election officials reported.

Turnout in the municipal elections in Riverdale, as well as the special election to replace former state Rep. Celeste Johnson in House District 75, hovered around 5 percent. In Forest Park, however, the turnout was 10 percentage points higher than that. Jonesboro's turnout will not be available until today, according to election officials in that city.

"For people to drive by City Hall on election day and not vote, that is deplorable," Riverdale City Clerk Stephanie Thomas said. "The people who did vote, however, I am glad that they voiced their opinion ... We did everything we could [to get people to the polls]. I was hoping we could get 1,000 people in there. We took so many measures to get people there."

In Riverdale, 552, or 6.67 percent of the city's 8,270 registered voters, participated in the election, Thomas said. The Ward 1 and Ward 3 City Council races were on the ballot for Riverdale voters. Thomas said city officials took several steps to encourage voters to participate in the election, including sending out mailings; recording a special message on the City Hall's phone line to inform people about the election; and posting voting information on the city's web site, on signs and banners, and on the lighted sign at the Ga. Highway 85 entrance to the city.

Thomas also said there was some confusion among voters as to what was on the ballot in the city. "There were people who came to polls today and thought it was a mayoral race and left because it wasn't," she said. "There is a lot of power that lies in the council, not just the mayor. These are the people who are determining how the city is governed."

Riverdale resident, Virginia Pearson, said that despite the low turnout, the candidates also did their fair share to inform voters about the election. "I got e-mails, phone calls, and mailings," she said. "They [the candidates] let me know. I'm going to vote in every election, no matter what it is for. I think it is a duty."

Forest Park's municipal election drew a higher turnout, with 15.2 percent of that city's 7,282 registered voters voting in mayoral and city council races. Forest Park voters were casting ballots in a mayoral race, and two city council races, in wards 1 and 2.

"Just the absentee and early voting alone was a turnout of 5.9 percent," Forest Park Election Superintendent David Painter said around 1:30 p.m., Tuesday. "It also turned out to be a beautiful day [Tuesday] ... At around 12:45 p.m., there were a few minutes where we didn't have anyone voting, and that was the only time since we opened that it was like that."

Ninety-five-year old Forest Park resident, Mary Parker, said she felt it was her civic duty to participate in the city's municipal election. "If you're a good citizen, you go out and vote," she said. "If you didn't vote, you shouldn't say anything if you don't like the way things are being run."

Jonesboro City Clerk and Elections Superintendent Janice Truhan said the total number of people who participated in Jonesboro's municipal election would not be available until after 1 p.m., today. In that city, voters were electing three people to serve on the Jonesboro City Council.

Jonesboro Municipal Elections Poll Manager B.J. Burrell said, however, that 111 of Jonesboro's 1,616 registered voters had voted in person on Tuesday, as of about 1 p.m.

Carlyle Charles, Jr., who has lived in Jonesboro for seven years, said he is content with the way government officials have operated the small city. "Sanitation, I am not worried about that ... you got to pay for sanitation, you got to pay," he said.

In the state House District 75 special election, 1,034, or 4.73 percent, of the 21,824 registered voters in that district participated in the election.

Bobbye Finnery, poll manager for the polling location at the headquarters branch of the Clayton County Library System in Jonesboro, said about 30 people, out of 2,428 voters registered in that precinct, had showed up to vote as of 2 p.m.

Cindy Mears, poll manager at the Morrow Municipal Complex voting location, another House District 75 precinct location, said her polling place had a higher turnout, though. She said some voters who cast their ballots at the Morrow Municipal Complex were calling other voters to encourage them to vote as well.

"Some of the polls have voted eight, 10, or 15 [people] and we've have 86 at high noon and we're really proud of that," Mears said. "Originally our goal was to get 60 people. We're going to have to raise our goal because we've already passed it."

Deborah Browne, poll manager at the Babb Middle School polling location in Forest Park, another polling location in the House District 75 race, said the turnout was also high at her polling location. As of 4 p.m., 116 people, or 7.9 percent of the 1,461 registered voters for that precinct, had come to the polling location to cast their ballots, Browne said. "We've had a lot of people vote because this is a state election," she said.

Brown also said she and her poll staff reminded Forest Park residents to vote in their city elections as well. The elections were not held at the same place, since the municipal elections were held at the Forest Park Recreation Center. "We felt it was the right thing to do, and the responsible thing to do," Browne said.

Forest Park resident, Bonita May, who came to Babb Middle School polling location to participate in the special election, said she wished both elections were held in the same place. She and her husband, William, had to go over the Forest Park Recreation Center to cast ballots in the municipal elections, after casting their ballots in the state House of Representatives special election.

"It's not a major inconvenience, but it's like I get off work and I go to vote, so I'd like to be able to vote in one location instead of having to go to two different places," Bonita May said.

Staff writers Linda Looney-Bond, Joel Hall and Maria Jose Subiria contributed to this article.