By Curt Yeomans
The more than 600 votes cast in Tuesday's city council special election in Morrow amounted to the highest number of votes in a city election there in recent history, according to Morrow City Clerk and Elections Registrar Evyonne Browning.
The total surpasses the roughly 500 people who came out for the last contested election in the city in 2005 -- which, at the time, was considered a high-water mark for the city, she said. Most city elections before 2005 drew turnouts of 200-300 voters, she said. She added that city elections since then have frequently consisted of incumbents running unopposed, so elections have not been necessary.
There were 612 votes cast in the special election -- out of 2,712 registered voters. That amounts to a 22.56 percent turnout. "I think we had the turnout we had because it's been awhile since a contested election, and there was no incumbent running, so that means it's a new council person that was being elected," Browning said. "I think people came out because they wanted to make sure the person who won is someone who will take care of the city's needs.
"Also, the candidates really canvassed the neighborhoods hard to get people to vote."
The election was won by John Lampl, the city's former city manager, and former Morrow Downtown Development Authority executive director. He will replace former City Councilman Charles Sorrow, who resigned in January due to health concerns.
Lampl, 45, won the special election with 426 (or 69.6 percent) of the 612 votes cast in the election. Former City Property Manager Jeanell Bridges captured 158 votes (or 25.81 percent of the total votes cast), while retiree James "Jim" Duckworth received 28 votes (or 4.57 percent).
The victory marks a return to the Morrow City Council for Lampl, after a 12-year absence from the governing body. He said he was previously a Morrow city councilman from 1991 to 1998.
"I feel very good, very good right now," Lampl said, after Browning announced the results in the City Council Chambers at Morrow City Hall at 11 p.m., on Tuesday.
Browning said there are two provisional ballots, which she is waiting on the voters who cast them to bring their identification to city hall, to prove they are residents of the city. Those voters have until 7 p.m., tonight, she said, but she pointed out that the size of Lampl's victory means the uncounted pair of provisional ballots will not alter the results.
City Manager Jeff Eady said Lampl will be sworn in at the March 23 city council meeting, assuming the election results are certified by then.
Voters, young and old, said they came to the polls on Tuesday because they saw the special election as being something important for the city.
Delford Fink, 73, a Morrow resident for 40 years, said he voted because he saw it as his civic duty. He said he participates in as many elections as possible. "I usually make most of them," he said. "I just think it's my duty to vote."
Georgia Tech student, Lindsay Hargis, 19, a resident of Morrow for 14 years, said she came to the polls because she wants to be "an active voter." She also cited growing up in a home where politics was important, and a love for the city, as reasons for participating in the special election. "My parents are very political and I'm very political as well," Hargis said. "We're more concerned about keeping our city nice. We always have been a community-oriented city ... It's always been a close-knit city. It's always been a place where the elected officials are easily accessible."
As a small crowd of people gathered to hear the winner announced on Tuesday night, Bridges' campaign manager, Synamon Baldwin, told other election observers that she believes the turnout marked a turning point for the city. She expressed an optimistic view that, perhaps, even more residents are going to begin following city affairs more closely.
Baldwin is also the president of the Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association, a group that promotes civic literacy. "Hopefully, we'll begin to see more people will begin to attend city council meetings, and take an interest in what's going on in their city," she said.
Staff writer Joel Hall contributed to this article.