By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — City officials have uncovered questionable but legal tactics being used to get absentee ballots for the March 19 special election.
City Manager John Parker said elections officials have gotten several calls about the questionable methods. Elections Superintendent Darnell Moorer said he’s learned from county and state officials that the tactics are “frowned upon” but legal.
“We’ve gotten calls that absentee ballot requests are being taken door to door and being filled out with the candidate there,” said Moorer. “The candidate is then offering to return the application to the office for processing.”
It almost seems unethical since campaigning is prohibited within 150 feet of a polling place but applying for an absentee ballot isn’t the same as casting a vote. Moorer said the application must be returned to Forest Park City Hall where it will be rejected or accepted. Once it is accepted, the actual ballot is mailed to the voter.
“We’ve had 100 absentee ballot applications sent in,” he said. “We’ve mailed back out 65 actual ballots. We’ve had about a dozen rejected for one reason or another.”
The remainder are being processed, said Moorer.
Every application is faxed to the Clayton County Registrars Office for verification.
“It is the county that approves the certification,” he said. “They let us know if the person is rejected or accepted.”
Reasons for being rejected vary from not being registered to vote to not living in Forest Park to sending in more than one application.
Parker said it’s beneficial to have the county as a safety check.
“Deception comes in many faces,” said Parker. “I’m glad to have the county check the applications.”
Of about 8,000 registered voters in Forest Park, Moorer said 110 have cast advanced ballots. Of those, 108 have been cast on touch screen monitors and two have been mailed in. Advanced voting helps ease the process, he said.
“We encourage voters to come out and do early voting because there are no lines,” said Moorer. “You don’t have to wait, unlike on Election Day.”
City Attorney Robert Mack said officials have also gotten several open records requests pertaining to ballots.
“They want to know the names and addresses of people who’ve asked for ballots, their voter registration date, if they were rejected and why,” said Mack. “That is all information they are not entitled to under the Open Records Act.”
The seats of mayor and Ward 1 representative are open. Sparkle Adams, Dabouze Antoine, John Finch and David Lockhart are vying for the office of mayor. Adams resigned her Ward 1 seat to run for mayor so that seat is also open. Candidates in that race are Kimberly James and Tommy Smith. The terms for both seats end Dec. 31 so winners will have to run for re-election before the end of the year.