As area voters prepare to head to the polls, they’ll be asked to do more than vote on three proposed constitutional amendments and choose a presidential candidate.
In all but one county — Habersham — voters will be asked to vote either affirmatively or negatively to additional special election questions. Special election questions are local issues that voters are being asked to vote on in addition to selecting candidates to fill various governmental positions.
The questions fall under two categories: Binding or nonbinding. If a question is binding, it means that the measure will be set in place if voters approve the action. Nonbinding questions are more of a straw poll to measure public opinion.
Only one of the two special election questions on the Hall County ballot is binding.
"The homestead exemption question is binding," said Charlotte Sosbee-Hunter, interim director of Hall County Elections and Voter Registration. "The advisory referendum question is not binding. It was derived from the Hall County commissioners and they would decide if any further action would be taken."
Banks County voters will also have to vote on a binding question. This year, Banks’ voters are being asked to vote whether or not to change the format of the county commission from a three member board to a five member board.
"If it is approved, we will have a special election in March to elect two new county commissioners," said Andra Phagan, the Banks County registrar.
White County also has a referendum to increase the size of its county commission and ballots in most area counties also feature a question on homestead exemptions. Forsyth County is asking voters to approve two separate bonds for a new jail and sheriff’s headquarters.
Although most counties have seen an increased number of early voters, most don’t attribute the change to the special election questions.
"We do have a couple of hot button issue — like the beer and wine question — and that has generated some interest and gotten some people motivated to come out and vote," said Garrison Baker, White County superintendent of elections.
"But given what I’ve seen and what has taken place prior to most people having knowledge about (the special election) questions being on the ballot, for the most part I think it’s the presidential election that is drawing people to the polls."
White County has by far the most number of local ballot questions, at seven. The referenda range from changes to the county commission and school board to a new special purpose local option sales tax.