The 1 percent transportation sales tax and races for sheriff, district attorney and a school board seat generated some voter interest Tuesday, but poll managers observed morning turnouts ranging from “super” to “very slow,” with more weighing in on the “slow” side.
An evening rush pushed the turnout to close to 28 percent.
When the polls opened at 7 a.m., only one voter was waiting at the Register precinct house. Two hours later, the precinct was still receiving one or two voters at a time, with some space between them.
“It’s been very slow. I’ve been surprised,” poll manager Cathy Dixon said. “With the two local races, I figured we’d have more than that. If nothing else brings people out, most of the time local will.”
The two races she referred to were the one for sheriff, involving incumbent Lynn Anderson and challengers Keith Howard and Tommy Sisson, and the race for district attorney between challenger Martha Kirkland Hall and incumbent Richard Mallard.
But all of those candidates were running as Republicans, which meant that people who chose the Democratic Party ballot, such as the Register precinct’s Patricia Hunter, couldn’t participate. Nevertheless, Hunter, 60, a cosmetologist, said she was interested in all the offices.
Interest in TSPLOST
Everyone, regardless of Tuesday’s temporary party choice, could vote in the referendum on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST.
“I voted yes,” Hunter said. “We need the roads to be kept up.”
James Schaaf, 78, a retired paper mill worker who cast his ballot at the Hagin precinct house on Clito Road, said he voted “definitely no” to TSPLOST, the ballot item that interested him most. He doesn’t want an added 1 percent sales tax and didn’t like the way that the tax was being voted on by regional commission district, so that it might be imposed against the will of a Bulloch County majority.
He had come to vote at 10 a.m. “to beat the crowd.” Turnout to that point had been very good, “better than we expected,” said the Hagin precinct’s poll manager, Charlene Mann. About 20 voters had lined up at 7 a.m., and 115 turned out in the first three hours. The precinct has 1,713 voters counted as active.
The running totals observed by poll managers Tuesday did not include voters who took part in the 21 days of advanced voting or cast absentee ballots. Looking at the early voting numbers Monday, Bulloch County Elections Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones said the county would be doing well to reach a turnout of between 15 percent and 20 percent. But after all the votes were counted, 27.8 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
Around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Statesboro precinct, in the William James Educational Complex on Williams Road, had steady traffic in and out, but no waiting. With 5,296 registered voters, the precinct could appear busier than some because of its size. But only about 200 had voted at that point, poll manager Felix DeLoach said.
Traffic into and out of the Fair Road precinct, at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds, was steady.
“We have had a super turnout. It has been a constant flow, all morning, and we have even had a few times of pretty heavy saturation,” poll manager Ann Price said. “It’s giving us practice for November.”
The Fair Road precinct has more than 4,000 registered voters. Around 11:30 a.m., roughly a third of the 18 voting machines were occupied. The last time Price had looked at the count, she said, 171 votes had been cast.
Just up the road at Pittman Park United Methodist Church, poll manager Lin Roberts sounded less upbeat. With 6,802 registered voters, including 5,348 counted as active, Pittman Park is the largest of Bulloch County’s 16 precincts. Close to the GSU campus, it includes many student residences.
The voter count stood at 126 at 11:55 a.m. First two or three, and then one, of the 18 voting machines were occupied.