By Joel Hall
There is still time, and reasons, to vote early in the Aug. 10 primary runoffs, according to local election officials.
With today being the final day for advance voting in the county, fewer than 1 percent of registered voters have bothered to participate in the runoff, following the July 20 primary.
But there is one day of advance voting left, and voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m., to 7 p.m., at the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration office, located at 121 South McDonough St., in Jonesboro. After that, the final day voters will have a say in the primary runoffs will be on election day, Tuesday, Aug. 10, when voters will be required to vote at one of 58 polling precincts around the county.
Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright said that while there was a steady stream of early voters on Thursday, participation has been extremly low. As of Thursday at 4 p.m., only 385 primary run-off ballots had been cast in person.
"The turnout for advance voting has been very low this week," Bright said. "Out of the 147,075 registered voters in the county, there has been less than a 1-percent turnout. In the July 20, general primary election, 24,451 votes were cast, with a 16.62 percent turnout."
Bright offered no predictions for voter turnout on Tuesday. However, she said all voters registered prior to June 21 will be able to vote today and Tuesday, regardless of whether they participated in the July 20 primary election.
"If a voter did not vote in the general primary election on July 20, they are eligible to vote in the run-off election, if they were registered before the June 21 cutoff date," she said. "If an individual voted in the general primary election, he or she must choose the same party ballot chosen during that election."
The results of the primary runoff generally will produce one Democratic candidate and one Republican candidate, per elected office, on a single, unified, November ballot. In Clayton, Democratic voters in the runoff will have the chance to pick the top Democrat for Secretary of State, State House District 75, and Clayton County School Board District 9.
In State House District 75, Henry Shawn James, 37, a U.S. Army veteran and real estate property manager from Riverdale, faces Yasmin Neal, 25, a detective from Jonesboro. Neal ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2008. In 2009, James ran unsuccessfully as a Republican against current State Rep. Ron Dodson (D-Lake City).
In the School Board District 9 race, incumbent School Board Member Charlton Bivins, 45, will face James Searcy, 52, a real estate agent from Ellenwood. Bivins serves as a lieutenant with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, and Searcy currently serves as chairman of the Housing Authority of Clayton County (HACC).
In an interesting turn of events, the Democratic candidates for Secretary of State are both current members of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation. State Sen. Gail Bucker (D-Jonesboro), a communications marketer, will face off against State Rep. Georganna Sinkfield (D-Atlanta), a real estate agent. The winner of the runoff will receive the Democratic nod, and face Republican Incumbent Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the fall.
Republicans voting in the runoff will be able to voice their opinions in several state races and only a few local ones.
On the local level, Republican voters in Clayton will only have the opportunity to chose a single Republican to take on U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), the incumbent in the 13th Congressional District. Mike Crane, 47, of Newnan, a general contractor and owner of Harvest Construction, will face Deborah Honeycutt, 62, a Fayette County resident and medical director of Clayton State University Health Services.
While Crane is new to politics, Honeycutt would face Scott for the third time, if successful in the runoff.
Republican candidates for state-wide offices include: Nathan Deal and Karen Handel for Governor; Sam Olens and Preston Smith for Attorney General; Ralph Hudgens and Maria Sheffield for Insurance Commissioner; and John Douglas and Tim Echols for Public Service Commissioner.
For more information, call the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration at (770) 477-3372.