Editorial: With COVID-19 on our minds, don't forget to vote

With the new coronavirus (COVID-19) dominating headlines and on the top of many of our minds, you may have forgotten that a voting opportunity is underway.

On Monday, advance voting began for general primaries, presidential preference primaries and nonpartisan elections that cover state and local races. In Whitfield County, early voting is in the elections office in the courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (Memorial Day excluded) through June 5. While in Murray County, early voting is at the Recreation Department at 651 Hyden Tyler Road, Chatsworth, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (Memorial Day excluded) through June 5.

The actual election, which was delayed from March then to May due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, is now set for June 9.

During advance voting, local elections officials said social distancing measures -- including maintaining 6 feet of distance between people -- are in effect. In this space earlier this month, we suggested voters complete their absentee ballots request form and vote by mail to limit their interaction with poll workers and other voters. We still believe that's the best choice for voters.

Stakes are high on the ballots, and we encourage everyone to let their voice be heard by voting.

There is an extremely impactful measure on the Whitfield County ballot. Voters will decide the fate of a proposed four-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that is expected to raise $66 million for projects, which include Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School and funds for sewer expansion in the northern part of the county.

There are plenty of important races as well, including chairman of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and sole commissioner of Murray County.

In Whitfield and Murray counties, all contested general primary races are 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.

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