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Hot races may spark heavier turnout in runoff

5 GOP contests in Hall remain unsettled from July 31 primary

POSTED: August 18, 2012 11:59 p.m.

If early voting numbers are any indication, Tuesday might not be your typical runoff election in Hall County.

With five local races still to be decided in the Republican primary — including the GOP nomination for a new seat in the U.S. House with both candidates are from Hall — voters seem to be aware that they have a lot of work left to do.

The winner of the runoff for the Republican nomination in the U.S. House 9th District seat, Doug Collins or Martha Zoller, will face Democratic challenger Jody Cooley in the November election.

Winners of Tuesday’s elections for sheriff, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, probate judge and tax commissioner face no opposition from Democrats in November.

Participation in the seven days of early voting drew 4,156 voters — 5 percent of the registered voting population — by the end of the day Friday, according to the Hall County’s Elections Office.

The turnout of early voters is nearly 68 percent of that prior to the July 31 primary when voters had more time — 16 days — to vote early.

More than 34.5 percent of Hall’s approximately 83,000 registered voters showed up for the July 31 primary overall.

Normally, Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, says that runoff elections draw about half of the voters in the original election.

But after seeing an average of 500 voters show up to the polls daily over the last week and a half, Charlotte Sosebee, Hall County’s elections supervisor, is planning for about 20 percent of Hall’s registered voters to show up by the end of Tuesday.

She has said she really only expects about 16 to 18 percent of voters to show up. The prediction is much higher than turnout during a primary runoff in the last presidential election cycle; in 2008, only 8.69 percent of the registered voters took part in the runoff election.

While at least one hot-button issue that drew voters to the polls on July 31 is out of the way, a referendum on a regional sales tax to fund transportation projects, Bullock cites the local sheriff’s election and the hotly-contested congressional race as possible reasons for the continued interest in the election.

Candidates in runoffs often spend much of the final days of their campaign reminding voters to show up at the polls again as they do talking about their platforms.

“If you can turn out the same people that voted for you in the initial primary, you’re going to be in pretty good shape,” Bullock said.

And the race between Jeff Strickland and Gerald Couch as Hall County’s next sheriff might just be the ticket for all the other candidates on the ballot.

“If you’re trying to bring people back to the polls, having a sheriff’s contest there is about as good as it gets,” Bullock said.


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