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Early voting in Clayton ends today

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Early voting in Clayton County will end today, making way for municipal election day on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

With a special election in State House District 75 taking place, as well as contests in three cities, officials are urging voters to be aware of their voting districts before heading to the polls. In the wake of former State Rep. Celeste Johnson's resignation from the House, two candidates will vie to complete her unexpired term. Ron Dodson, who previously served four terms in the District 75 seat, seeks to reclaim the office against political newcomer, Henry Shawn James.

The last day of early voting for that seat will take place today, from 8 a.m., to 7 p.m., at the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration, located at 121 S. McDonough St. in Jonesboro.

* On Tuesday, voting for that district post will take place from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., at 11 precincts within the district:

Forest Park 4, at Babb Middle School; Forest Park 5, at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church; Forest Park 6, at Haynie Elementary School; Jonesboro 4, at Kilpatrick Elementary School; Jonesboro 9, at the Shelnutt Intergenerational Center; Jonesboro 15, at the Clayton County Headquarters Library; Morrow 2, at the Morrow Municipal Complex; Oak 3, at West Clayton Elementary School; Riverdale 5, at Riverdale Middle School; Riverdale 6, at Tara Elementary School, and Riverdale 7, at The Flint River Center on Garden Walk Boulevard.

According to Clayton County Elections and Registration Official Lucille Pettaway, early voter turnout for the House District 75 race has been extremely low. She said that as of 2 p.m., on Thursday, only nine people -- out of 21,786 registered voters in the district -- had already cast ballots.

"There have been a lot of people who came in who wanted to vote, but they weren't in the right district," Pettaway said. "They can just give us a call ... we would be happy to save them a trip. If they have their precinct card [voter registration card], it should have their house district number right on the card."

Pettaway said that, due to the fact that municipal elections are taking place at the same time as the special election for House District 75, some voters will have to vote twice, once for each race. She said voters should pay special attention to the information on their voter identification card.

Voters can verify their voting district by calling the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration at (770) 477-3372, Pettaway said.

* In Forest Park, early voter turnout has been steady, according to Forest Park Election Superintendent David Painter. He said that as of Thursday afternoon, 4 percent of the electorate had already voted in advance.

"I'd say it has been pretty fair so far," Painter said. "Four percent have already turned out. We beat the [vote on the Clayton County Shool Board] SPLOST" on Sept. 15. "That did 2 percent," countywide, he said.

The last day of early voting in Forest Park will take place today, from 8:30 a.m., to 4:30 p.m., at Forest Park City Hall, located at 745 Forest Parkway.

On Tuesday, voting will take place from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., at the Forest Park Recreation Center, located at 803 Forest Parkway.

Painter said elections officials will be able to tell voters whether they are at the right voting precinct. He added that according to state code, special preference is given to voters over the age of 75, or to those who are disabled.

"If you are over 75 years of age, you don't have to stand in line [and the same applies] if you are disabled," Painter said.

In the Forest Park election, nine candidates will vie for the seats of mayor, Ward 1 council member, and Ward 2 council member.

* In Jonesboro, a little more than 50 people have voted early, according to Assistant City Clerk Sandra Meyers. "I think at the last election [in 2007], we had about 100 people come to vote [in advance]," Meyers said. "That, however, was a mayoral race, [with] three council members, so that usually brings a few extra people out."

The last day of early voting in Jonesboro will take place today, from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m. at Jonesboro City Hall, located at 124 North Ave., in Jonesboro.

On Tuesday, voting will take place from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., at Clayton County Fire Station No. 13, located at 264 N. Main St., in Jonesboro.

Meyers said voters can expedite the process of voting by having a picture identification ready. "We will be using the voting machines this year, so that will make things a little faster," she said.

In Jonesboro, seven candidates will compete for three at-large positions on the city council.

* In Riverdale, early voter turnout has tripled since the 2007 election, according to City Clerk Stephanie Thomas. "Over 70 people have voted already, and that impresses me," said Thomas on Thursday afternoon. "In 2007, we had only about two dozen people. The council members are certainly on the campaign trail. We also did a huge marketing campaign. The mayor has certainly put the word out."

The last day of early voting in Riverdale will take place today, from 8:30 a.m., to 4:30 p.m., in the Riverdale City Hall Conference Room, located at 6690 Church St.

On Tuesday, voting will take place from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., in the Riverdale City Hall Council Chambers.