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Tuesday's primary has voters intrigued, more involved
Vote on roads sales tax, competitive races spark interest in party contests
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Primary voter’s guide

What: Voters across Georgia will select party nominees for U.S. Congress, General Assembly and local offices, plus the regional transportation sales tax. There also are nonbinding ballot questions.
When: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; anyone in line when the polls close will be allowed to vote.
Where to vote: Check your voter registration card or county election office for your precinct location, or visit the Ga. Secretary of State’s My Voter Web page at mvp.sos.state.ga.us.
Voter ID: Each voter will complete a voter certificate when entering their polling place. The poll worker will request to see one of the required forms of photo ID from the voter. To find the types of ID accepted, go to the Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.ga.gov/elections. If a voter does not have one of the required forms of photo ID, or if the voter’s name cannot be located on the voter’s list, such voter will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

For more, visit the We the People page.

This isn’t your typical primary election.

Voter participation may not be as high as election officials would like but, based on the bustling pace of early voting, it likely could exceed turnout expectations for a primary.

Reasons vary, but the main one may be the ballot’s volume of hot issues and races.

“It’s sort of the harmonic convergence of issues all appearing at one time,” said Carl Cavalli, political science professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

Across Georgia, the key voter attraction might be the transportation sales tax referendum, popularly known as T-SPLOST, which asks whether residents are willing to contribute another penny per dollar in sales tax for transportation improvements.

The issue has created a nonstop buzz in the media and among vocal supporters and opponents.

And ballots are jammed with contested races, including the 9th District seat in the U.S. House.

In Hall County, five men are vying for the open Hall County sheriff’s seat with Steve Cronic stepping down after three four-year terms.

Also on the ballot are races for the Hall County Board of Education, Board of Commissioners, probate judge and tax commissioner. And the race for the newly created state House District 103 seat that straddles South Hall and North Gwinnett counties has two candidates.

Tossing in the nonpartisan judicial races and a couple of other election questions, many voters likely will be standing in the ballot box for a while.

“The fact that all of these are happening at one time has spiked interest,” Cavalli said.

Also, a slew of Republican-filled races essentially has turned what is designed to be a two-party primary into a general election. In other words, barring a runoff, the winner goes on to fill the post in most races.

“It’s a complete turnaround from even as recently as 30 or more years ago, when it was exactly the opposite,” Cavalli said. “It was Democratic primaries pretty much determining the winner because there was no Republican opposition.”

North Georgia was one of the last bastions “for the old, traditional Southern Democrat,” he said. “You saw a Democratic majority remain into the 1990s.”

Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, said the Hall County area might be especially busy in this primary.

“There’s probably only one other congressional contest that’s really going to be exciting,” he said. “That’s in the 12th District on the Republican side.”

He said the sheriff’s race could be the main attraction.

“I’ve seen instances in which that contest could be the leading vote-getter within a county,” Bullock said. “People really care about the sheriff’s race, so that helps driver (voter) numbers.”

Each of the candidates “have a circle of friends and associates, so some of those people will turn out to vote just because they have a friend that’s in that contest,” he said.

“Once they are there, they’ll express opinions on other issues, but it’s the knowing somebody who’s running and feeling the obligation to help that individual that’ll bring some of those voters to the polls.”

Douglas Young, political science professor at Gainesville State College, said races for open seats “always attract more people, because it’s usually really hard to unseat an incumbent.”

“When you have an open seat, that will attract a lot of big guns,” he said.

“The congressional race is really important because this is a presidential election year and so people are more focused on national politics anyway,” Young said.

Hall County elections director Charlotte Sosebee said 6,127 people cast ballots during the early voting period July 9 through Friday.

By comparison, in the 45-day period of the 2008 general primary, Hall had 1,836 voters total. Some 2,000 voted in the first week alone in this year’s primary, Sosebee said.

She projects a voter turnout as high as 35 percent, or about 29,000 of the 82,394 active voters, compared to 14.82 percent who voted in 2008. More realistically, turnout could be about 25 percent, she said.

“I’m being very optimistic,” Sosebee said.

North Hall resident Donna Moss, voting Thursday at the elections office, said she believes the primary is drawing interest for several reasons.

“It’s the political climate right now. There’s so much at stake,” she said. “I think people are wanting a change and I think they’re invested in that. And T-SPLOST is a very important issue.”

Julie Wingate, also of North Hall, had similar opinions about this primary’s popularity.

“I think that with the economy ... that people are very, very interested in what’s going on,” she said. “They want to make a difference and they want their vote to count.”

Ron Fritchley of northwest Hall said he believes “there’s a lot of good candidates” on the ballot, as well.

“There’s a lot of good experience in all the races — some better than others — but on paper, they all look pretty good,” he said.

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