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Voter sign-ups prove effective

More than 1,000 registered through Oct. 1; official expects 1,200 more

    Voter registration rolls in Statesboro are growing, with nearly 1,200 new voters signing up since Aug. 1.
    Shontay Jones, deputy registrar for Bulloch County, said the surge is “probably” the most registration applications for a city election she has seen in her eight years on the job.    
    “The bulk of the registration forms are coming from the voter registration drives taking place at Georgia Southern University,” said Jones.
    In a report from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, the number of registered voters in Bulloch between the ages of 18-29 rose from 6,679 on Aug. 1 to 8,001 on Oct. 1 – an increase of 1,322 voters, or 83 percent of the new voters registered in the county during the past two months. An age breakdown was not available for the five voter districts in Statesboro.
    As of Oct. 1, there were 8,715 registered voters in Statesboro, up from 7,683 on Sept. 1 and 7,538 on Aug. 1 – an increase of 1,177 new city voters in the past two months.
    Jones expects registration numbers to increase significantly through Oct. 9 – the final day to register for the Nov. 6 city election. She said there is “at least” another 1,000 registration forms yet to be entered into the computer and expects to have a final registration count by Oct. 19.  
    In the three districts where city council members are up for re-election, District 2, currently held by Gary Lewis, added 408 new voters. District 3, currently held by Will Britt, added 145 new voters, while District 5, held by John Morris, added an additional 110 voters.    
    The numbers take on added significance when the 2003 election results are taken into account. Less than 275 total ballots were cast in Lewis’ District 2 race then, while less than 350 votes were cast in Britt’s District 4 race.
    This year, Lewis is opposed by Nathan Queen in District 2, Britt by Harry “Bubba” Propes in District 3 and Morris by Travis Chance in District 5.
    All candidates who were reached for comment Wednesday said they were pleased with the large increase in student registrations.
    “That’s wonderful that they’re engaging in their duty as citizens,” Morris said. “We’re also doing our due diligence to get the word out.”
    Nathan Queen said: “That’s great. That’s wonderful. The students are a vital part of the city and should have a voice, just like everyone else in the community.”
    Gary Lewis said: “I’m just urging people to get out and register before October 9th.”
    One of the driving forces behind the flood of registrations is the College Student Association, which was formed in August. The group has sponsored voter registration drives nearly every day since the end of August. Drives have been held at the Rotunda on campus, at Greek Row on Olympic Boulevard and at nearly all of the student-oriented apartment complexes in Statesboro.
    College Student Association president Cam Lewellen did not return repeated calls during the past week seeking comment.
    Another group running registration drives is the Georgia Southern’s Student Government Association. Bryan Toles, executive vice president of SGA, is leading the voter registration effort on campus.
    “One of our goals this year is to get more involved in the community,” Toles said.
    SGA publicity director Brittany Hall said SGA planned to hold drives right up to the Oct. 9 deadline. She said about 8 – 10 SGA senators were deputized as registrars last week. The group also will sponsor a forum for city council candidates Tuesday.
    “The whole background with this is that GSA wants to have a better relationship with the community,” Hall said. “We feel if we bring the community to us and get the students more involved we can build those relationships.”
    Monday and Tuesday, SGA drives at the Rotunda collected 175 new voter applications. Wednesday’s drive, scheduled for the Lakeside Café, was canceled due to rain.

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