Voters go to the polls on Tuesday; SPLOST, commission races on Whitfield ballot

Mary Wilson, right, hands "I'm a Georgia Voter" stickers to Lester and Daisie Bruce after they voted in Varnell in this file photo.

Dalton's Frank Jenkins says he's eager to vote on Tuesday.

"I didn't have time to get to the courthouse for early voting, and I don't trust the mail with my vote," he said.

But many local voters have already made their choices. Almost a fifth of registered voters in both Whitfield and Murray counties will have already voted when polls open on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Whitfield County Registrar Mary Hammontree said 1,980 people voted in early voting and as of about 3:30 p.m. on Monday the elections office had received 6,509 absentee ballots. Whitfield County has 52,773 registered voters.

The Murray County elections office reported that 1,587 took part in early voting there and as of about noon on Monday it had received 2,774 absentee ballots. The county has about 22,000 registered voters, so roughly 20% of registered voters have already voted in Murray County.

The deadline for local elections offices to receive absentee ballots is 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Hammontree said voters can place them in a drop box outside the courthouse.

Those going to the polls on Tuesday will notice some precautions to reduce the chances of spreading the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Workers will be wearing masks,” said Hammontree. “Voters are encouraged to wear them, especially if they are in the high-risk category. But not wearing a mask will not keep you from voting at the precinct.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health says older adults and those who have diabetes, heart disease or lung disease are at high risk from the coronavirus.

“There will be social distancing requirements at the polling locations,” said Hammontree. “There will be hand sanitizer for the voters. We also have cleaning supplies for the poll workers to sanitize the machines, tables, voter cards, door knobs and all other things a voter might have to touch. The equipment will be sanitized often.”

Murray County will be taking similar steps to protect voters and poll workers.

“Most of the workers will be wearing masks, and equipment will be sanitized as often as possible,” said Election Superintendent Larry Sampson. “The voters are encouraged to wear masks but it is not mandatory. Social distancing is encouraged and there will be a deputy at each polling place to help with that.”

Polling hours on Tuesday are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Voters must bring a photo ID.

Whitfield County voters will decide on a proposed four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that would, among other things, fund projects that include a county Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School; a new John Davis Recreation Center for the city of Dalton; and sewer expansion to the Carbondale interchange, the Connector 3 interchange and north along Cleveland Highway to about Frontier Trail to encourage economic development in those areas.

In both Whitfield and Murray counties, all of the contested general primary races will be on the Republican Party ballot. They include:

• Whitfield County Board of Commissioners chairman: incumbent Lynn Laughter and Jevin Jensen.

• Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, District 4: incumbent Greg Jones and Dan Lewallen.

• Whitfield County Clerk of Superior Court: Babs Bailey and April Plott.

• Murray County sole commissioner: incumbent Greg Hogan and Howard Ensley.

• Murray County sheriff: Dakota Boling, Jimmy Davenport, Brian J. Ingle and Wyle Keith Pritchett (Sheriff Gary Langford is not seeking reelection).

• Murray County Board of Education, District 4: incumbent Greg Shoemaker, Hunter Phillips and Greg Spivey.

• Murray County Probate judge: incumbent John Waters and Brett Morrison.

• State House of Representatives, District 11: incumbent Rick Jasperse and Charlotte Williamson.

• State Senate, District 54: incumbent Chuck Payne and Dan McEntire.

• U.S. House of Representatives, District 14: John Barge, Ben Bullock, Kevin Cooke, John Cowan, Clayton Fuller, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Gunther, Bill Hembree and Matt Laughridge. Rep. Tom Graves, who currently holds that seat, announced last year he would not seek reelection.

There will be one nonpartisan race in Whitfield County where incumbent Magistrate Court Judge Rod Weaver faces Wallace Johnson.

In the Republican Party presidential preference primary, President Donald Trump is the only candidate on the ballot.

In the Democratic Party presidential preference primary, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet; former vice president Joe Biden; billionaire Michael Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg; former congressman John Delaney; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick; U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; billionaire Tom Steyer; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang are on the ballot. All but Biden have dropped out or suspended their campaigns.

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