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Early voting turnout light so far

POSTED: October 20, 2013 10:57 p.m.

There are contested races for mayor in Gainesville and Flowery Branch, and contested city council races in Clermont and Flowery Branch, but voters don’t seem too interested yet.

Early voting started at the beginning of last week, but so far, turnout has been light. Gainesville has seen the most early voters, with Flowery Branch next and then Clermont. Early voting ends Nov. 1, and election officials say they expect it to pick up this week. Election Day is Nov. 5.

“We finally hit 100,” said Charlotte Sosebee, Hall County Elections director and chief registrar, on Friday. “It’s been slower than what I was expecting.”

Hall is running just the Gainesville race. The other cities are handling their own elections, with Hall County providing some services and help.

Sosebee said she expected to have 100 early voters on the first day; instead it took a week to reach that.

In the last municipal election in 2011, about 374 people voted early. The mayoral position in Gainesville is contested, with four residents vying for the post. Candidates include political newcomer Charles Alvarez, former Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan and former Gainesville City Council candidates Debra Harkrider and Rose Johnson.

This is the first time voters will directly elect the mayor of Gainesville. The job had been rotated among sitting City Council members for two-year stints. The new post, set up with voter approval in a 2009 referendum, carries a four-year term and the spotlight of being the first person to assume the office.

Sosebee has projected Gainesville’s total voter turnout at 25 percent of its 11,688 registered voters because of the new elected mayor position and the four contenders for it. Twenty-five percent of the city’s voters is 2,922 voters. Turnout was about 14 percent in the last municipal election.

“That’s me being optimistic,” Sosebee said. “This is an historical election for the city of Gainesville, they’ll be electing their first mayor.”

Flowery Branch has had 33 voters turn out so far, City Clerk Marja Burney said. The city didn’t have any early voting information from 2011 immediately available.

Flowery Branch’s total turnout for Election Day two years ago was 454, Sosebee said.

The South Hall city has three contested seats, including the position of mayor and two council posts. Shanon Lutz, wife of Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz, is challenging incumbent Mayor Mike Miller. Ed Edwards and incumbent Fred Richards are fighting for Post 3, and Chris Fetterman is challenging incumbent Tara Richards for the Post 5 seat.

Clermont saw five residents vote early during last week and had just nine early voters in 2011, said Amy Lomax, Clermont assistant city clerk. No one challenged Clermont Mayor James Nix this year, but there are several residents campaigning for the two open council seats. Candidates include Brett Adams, Lynn Adams, Bradley Armour, Kristi Crumpton and incumbent Mary Ellen Rogers.

Total turnout two years ago was 178, Lomax said. The city hopes to have higher election turnout this year.

“It’s hard to say,” she said.


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