Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Even as the time for the polls to close got closer and closer, the line to vote at J.W. Arnold Elementary School, in Jonesboro, still wrapped half-way around the school's cafeteria, and out into the adjacent hallway.
At 6:30 p.m., Poll Manager Barbara Todd posted on the school's front door, the figure that told the story of the day -- 927-- the number of people who had voted at the polling location since 7 a.m.
"We've been busy all day," Todd said. "We've never had any point today where we did not have at least one person at a voting machine. Of course, with all of these people voting, it means people are having to wait a little bit longer."
With all but the early and absentee ballots counted as of 1:20 a.m., on Wednesday, 41,775 of Clayton County's 147,400 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday. That translates to a one-day voter turnout of 28.34 percent.
As voting was taking place on Tuesday, Clayton County Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright said the reports she had been receiving from poll managers indicated a "beautiful turnout" was going to be likely.
She said the state has confirmed that 20,292 Clayton County voters cast early and advanced ballots between September and last Friday, which means the county's total turnout may have actually been around 42.1 percent.
"It's been really good from what I've been hearing," she said, Tuesday afternoon. "I don't have exact numbers, because I can't call all 58 precincts, but it's been tremendous," said Bright.
Turnout numbers provided by poll workers, showed people were coming out to vote throughout the day. Caroline Latimer, a clerk for the voting precinct at Lovejoy Middle School, said 507 people, out of the precinct's 4,367 registered voters, had cast ballots by 2 p.m.
Next door, at Lovejoy High School, Becky Wells, the poll manager for that precinct, said 350 people, out of approximately 2,500 registered voters, had cast ballots as of 2:45 p.m.
Neil Lawson, the poll manager for the precinct located at M.D. Roberts Middle School, in Jonesboro, said 677 people, out of the precinct's 2,155 registered voters, had cast ballots, as of 5 p.m. "It's been pretty steady all day," he said.
And voters gave a variety of reasons, on Tuesday, for going to the polls, ranging from fulfilling civic duties, to wanting to have a voice in the elections, to wanting to see changes in the county.
Jonesboro resident, Chad Callahan, said he wanted to teach his 6-year-old son, Yani, about the election process. "I'm here because it's my responsibility, and to show my son the process of voting ... To get him the experience, and to get him started early," the father said as he and his son left M.D. Roberts.
Another Jonesboro resident, Dawn Price, said she voted because at one time, African Americans did not have the right to vote, and she wanted to honor them by voting in every election. She said she saw the governor's and judge's races, including local and state-wide judge seats, as the big issues on the ballot. "It affects Clayton county, as well as the whole state," she said, as she, too, left M.D. Roberts.
Lovejoy resident, Harold Brakefield, said it is the way the county is run locally, however, that brought him out to vote. He said he wanted to see some ideologies, normally associated with Republicans, put into place in a county that has been a Democratic stronghold in recent years.
He said he would like for Clayton County to give tax incentives to new businesses that come into the county, and that he believed this would bring more jobs to the county.
Another Lovejoy resident, Damon Dawson, said his patience had worn thin with promises made by Democrats, although he admitted there were some attractive promises being made. Still, he said, he was looking past party affiliation during this election, and voting for those individuals who promise change, and actually make it happen.
"This is the first time I've had a hard time at the booth," he said, during an interview outside Lovejoy Middle School.
As Jonesboro residents, Greg and Tonya Simmons, left Arnold Elementary School, however, they said they came because they felt their votes counted, and they wanted their voices to be heard on a multitude of issues facing the county and state.
Tonya Simmons said those issues included "the governor's race, definitely," and a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a $10 tag fee to be created for private motor vehicles, to fund expansion of trauma care in the state. Greg Simmons added that job creation, and whether Clayton County joins MARTA were two other key issues in the election.
"This is one of those years where you have to vote, due to all of the issues that are going on," Greg Simmons said.
-- Staff Writer Maria Jose Subiria contributed to this report