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Clayton voter turnout was 'steady' for primaries

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The flow of Clayton County voters, who went to the polls to cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday was rarely, if ever, overwhelming, but voters did show up in a constant stream, according to poll managers across the county.

With all but the provisional ballots counted by 1:10 A.M,. on Wednesday, 24,444 of the county's 147,075 voters, registered for the primaries, participated in the election, according to the county's election results web site. That equates to a turnout of 16.62 percent for the primaries.

After the advance voting turnout, where less than 500 ballots were cast, the numbers were actually a bit higher than some elections officials in the county expected, according to Barbara Todd, the poll manager at the precinct located at J.W. Arnold Elementary School, in Jonesboro.

Todd, who was a poll worker during advance voting, said she expected a total turnout of 350 voters to come to her precinct on Tuesday, because of the low advance voter turnout. As of 4 p.m., on election day, however, 443 of the precinct's 3,116 voters (a 14.2 percent turnout) had come by to cast their votes, she said.

"I have had some people say they were waiting till the last minute to vote, because they were waiting to see if the media was going to have anymore stories about any of the candidates," Todd said.

Some voters said there were no specific races, or issues that drove them to polls on Tuesday. Some were like Jonesboro resident, Don Williams, who said he voted "just to do my patriotic, and civic duty."

Others cited the governor's race, and the races for two seats on the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, as reasons for going to the polls. "The governor's race is important to me," said Jonesboro resident, Lionel Kennedy, who added that he supported Roy Barnes' bid to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. "The governor's office is going to open after this year, so you want to be involved in the process of saying who's going to be the state's next leader."

Jonesboro resident, Patsy Hargrave, said she felt the commission races were the most important races on Clayton County ballots this year. Hargrave, who lives in Commission District 4, said she normally votes in Republican primaries, but she felt it was important to participate in the Democratic primary this year, so she could vote for the current District 4 Commissioner, Michael Edmondson.

"The commissioners are very important because they are the ones who make decisions about what will happen in the county," Hargrave said. "We live in the county, and we make money in the county, so we need people [on the commission] who are responsible."

Some voters, while never mentioning specific candidates, said they felt it was important for them to come to the polls, so they could have a voice in who their local and state leaders are. Lovejoy resident, Edith Murphy, said she feels elections are important, because it gives citizens a chance to make their voices heard. "We need to come out to the community and help ... the county [Clayton County] is right now in a drought," she said, before stepping into the polling location at Lovejoy High School to cast her vote.

Rex resident, Marco Shepard, said he was concerned that budget cuts in the county could lead to fewer law enforcement officers being employed by Clayton County leaders. "Law enforcement is not where we need to lose manpower," he said. "In the past few years, property values have dropped, so crime and education all play a part."

Not every voting percent had double digit turnout numbers, however. Becky Wells, poll manager at the Lovejoy High School precinct, said that, as of 12:23 p.m., only 83 people voted, out of 2,517 registered to vote, which equals a turnout of 3.29 percent.

Beverly Vereen, the poll manager for the precinct at the Adamson Middle School, said 247 of the precinct's 3,887 registered voters (a turnout of 6.35 percent) had come to cast ballots by 1 p.m. She described the turnout at the precinct as "less than normal."

"This [voter participation] is really slow for the primary at this precinct," Vereen said. "We had two people who didn't want to declare their party. There are only two parties on the ballot, so they have to pick one."

But, some precincts did get big turnouts, however. At the precinct located at M.D. Roberts Middle School, in Jonesboro, poll manager Neil Lawson said the voters were coming in continuously, but never in a large crowd. Things picked up as the day went on, however, and 450 of the precinct's 2,148 voters (a 20.9 percent turnout) had cast their ballots by 3:30 p.m., Lawson said.

"It's been pretty steady all day," he said. He later added, "We've been averaging about 50 an hour. I suppose that's good. Not as good as anyone would want going to vote, though."

At 2:30 p.m., Cindy Mears, the poll manager for a precinct at the Morrow Municipal Complex, said 179 of the precinct's 1,734 registered voters (a 10.3 percent turnout) had come by to cast their ballots. Mears said she suspects the turnout would have been higher, if her precinct were not also an advance voting site.

"We've had a real good day today," Mears said. "It hasn't been as many as we would have liked. We're generally one of the busiest precincts in the county. Some of our voters voted last week [during advance voting]. There are more big issues this year, but with this being an advanced voting precinct, that really takes care of the crowd."

Mears added that, ideally, "I want it packed, just like the presidential election, when the lines were all the way around the back."

-- Staff writers Joel Hall and Maria-Jose Subiria contributed to this report