Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 31, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 31, 2016

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted after sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson became the first African-American to vote after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The iconic vote was cast in a local election in Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the town’s charter.  Gary Sullivan of the News Tribune stated, “Exercising his right to vote in a local election on March 31, 1870.  Peterson became the first black man in the United States to cast a ballot.  The amendment had been ratified on February 3, 1870, and within just two months the Fifteenth Amendment was put to use.

An interview with Peterson showed who encouraged him to vote, “I was working for Mr. T. L. Kearny on the morning of the day of election, and did not think of voting until he came out to the stable where I was attending to the horses and advised me to go to the polls and exercise a citizen’s privilege.”  Peterson also revealed his vote in this election, “As I advanced to the polls one man offered me a ticket bearing the words “revised charter” and another one marked, “no charter.” I thought I would not vote to give up our charter after holding it so long: so I chose a revised charter ballot.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Goofy Voter

In order to fill a District 3 City Council vacancy, the City of Sandy Springs has adopted the goofiest voting scheme I can remember.

At a special meeting Tuesday at City Hall, the council approved, by a 5-0 vote, an ordinance to hold a special election May 24 for District 3 to fill McDonald’s seat until the term expires Dec. 31, 2017.

Residents wishing to become candidates must file a notice of candidacy and affidavit during the qualifying period that will start April 13 at 8:30 a.m. and end April 15 at 12:30 p.m.

For the election there will only be one polling place located in Hammond Park at 6005 Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs.

The city does not have the ability to efficiently hold elections in several polling places that day, said City Manager John McDonough, adding it is a special election because it falls outside the 90-day-advance-notice period required by state code.

For the voting process the city will be using paper ballots for residents to vote with. There will also be several ways for residents to execute absentee voting.

“Residents will be able to download a form from our website, fill it up and either mail it, email it or fax it, etc.” said city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun, adding the city is working on all the ways it can help neighbors and also the advertisement procedure the city is bound to follow before election time.

The last option will be advanced voting which will be held at the Fulton County North Service Center, located at 7741 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs.

The Sandy Springs Patch notes,

Residents should note that voting for the state’s May 24 general primary will be held in the polling locations designated on the voting registration cards issued by Fulton County. That primary election includes the selection of State Court judges, Fulton County School Board representatives, county commissioners and tax commissioner.

So, if you live in Sandy Springs and want to vote in the General Primary election for United States Senator, Public Service Commission, and other state offices, you will do so at your normal voting precinct. If  you also want to cast a ballot for Sandy Springs Commission District 3, you will have to drive to Hammond Park at 6005 Glenridge Drive to cast your ballot for that office only.

But it gets even goofier. The Sandy Springs City Council race will not appear on normal mail-in absentee ballots. Instead you have to apply separately for a General Election Primary mail-in ballot and for a different Sandy Springs City Council mail-in ballot.

Fulton County registered voters may visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website to download an application for official absentee ballot for the state election to be held on May 24, 2016.

The application can then be mailed to: Fulton County Voter Registration, 130 Peachtree St. S.W.; Suite 2186; Atlanta, Georgia 30303, or can be faxed to Fulton County at 404-730-8839.


If you live in District 3 within the City of Sandy Springs, you can request an absentee ballot for the City’s Special-Called Election to fill the District 3 City Council seat by downloading the application and either:

  • Hand deliver to the City Clerk at Sandy Springs City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500, Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350, or
  • Mail to the City Clerk at Sandy Springs City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500, Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350, or
  • Email to the City Clerk at, or
  • Fax to the City Clerk at 770.206.1420

In addition to my friend, Suzi Voyles, who announced her candidacy for Sandy Springs City Council District 3, other candidates include,

Chris Burnett, the market president of the Bank of Sandy Springs; Brian Eufinger, who runs the Sandy Springs Zoning Coalition group; and Joe Houseman, a Delta airlines pilot, have all declared intent to run for the District 3 council seat.

Burnett, who is also well known as a former board chair of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, said he is running “candidly for no other reason than I love Sandy Springs…I’m very excited about what I think the city can be.” He said he believes his financial expertise would be an asset to the council.

Burnett, who has never run for office before, lives in Rivershore Estates at Heards Ferry Road and Riverside Drive. He said that he has served on board or advisory committees for the Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, the City Springs project, and the city’s Economic Development Advisory Council and Next Ten city planning update process.

Houseman said he is a lifelong Sandy Springs resident. “I’ve seen some really great things and really positive changes,” he said, adding that he wants to maintain a city where his children can grow up.

The Muscogee County Board of Elections disqualified two candidates for Sheriff in the May 24 Primary Election, but their names will remain on ballots.

Finding that Pamela Brown and Robert Keith Smith failed to get fingerprinted for a criminal background check by a March 16 deadline, the board voted three to one to disqualify them. Only board member Linda Parker, who represents the local Democratic Party, voted to qualify the candidates. Voting to disqualify them were Uhland Roberts, Eleanor White and Diane Scrimpshire. The board chair, Margaret Jenkins, votes only in a tie.

The vote followed arguments from both candidates’ attorneys, who said their clients made a good-faith effort to meet the deadline, but were deterred by confusion regarding the procedure and the lack of anyone available to fingerprint them on March 16.

Mark Shelnutt, who represents Brown, argued she already complied with the law on May 22, 2012, when she first ran for sheriff and nearly unseated incumbent John Darr in the Democratic Primary. Because the law said she had to comply with the fingerprint requirement “on or before” three business days after candidate qualifying ended, she met the statute’s requirements, he said: “May 22, 2012, is before.”

Two of three candidates for Cobb County Commission met in a forum to discuss stormwater management issues, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Absent from the event was Chairman Tim Lee, who is running for re-election. Lee told organizers he had the flu and was therefore unable to attend.

All three candidates are running as Republicans who will face off in the May 24 primary.

The forum, moderated by WSB meteorologist Katie Walls, focused specifically on how development affects stormwater runoff, whether by clearing land of trees that would control runoff or by changing water flow through installation of roads, concrete structures or other impermeable surfaces.

The candidates seized on the issue to showcase their philosophies of governance and appeal for votes.

The Cobb County NAACP will hold a forum tonight for local candidates.

Augusta City Commission has enacted what appears to be the first local drone ban in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The new ordinance “provides a road map for other local communities to model,” as the Federal Aviation Ad­min­­is­tration threatens to pre-empt local regulation of unmanned aircraft systems, even at low altitudes, [Mayor Hardie] Davis said.

“I think Augusta has taken the lead on this issue for the state of Georgia,” he said.

The ban on drone flights applies only to areas where 100 or more people are gathered or could gather, such as large sporting event venues. The ordinance also outlines permitted uses by public utilities and law enforcement, and it allows operators to apply for a special license with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to fly a drone over a crowd.

Kinder Morgan has suspended work on a controversial pipeline from Belton, South Carolina, through Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida.

The announcement blames action by Georgia lawmakers who passed legislation this month that put a moratorium on the pipeline until July 2017.

The company already had secured contracts to transport fuel in the Palmetto Pipeline, with construction initially scheduled to begin this spring.

Its statement expressed frustration but left open whether the project would be restarted later.

“Kinder Morgan has suspended further work on the Palmetto Pipeline project, following the unfavorable action by the Georgia legislature regarding eminent-domain authority and permitting restrictions for petroleum pipelines,” the website said. “While this legislative action was disappointing, we remain committed to providing customized transportation solutions to our customers.”

The Tybee Island Public Safety Committee will meet Friday to consider a proposal to ban open-air alcohol consumption.

The city’s public safety committee has called a meeting for 10:30 a.m. Friday to discuss an amendment to the city code of ordinances that, if approved, would create a ban on consumption of alcohol in public throughout the month of April.

Tybee Police Chief Bob Bryson said the proposal is modeled after a similar measure in Panama City Beach, Fla., where city officials reported a reduction in arrests after they banned open-air consumption during the month of March.

An April ban on Tybee would limit excessive open-air consumption during Orange Crush on April 15 and 16, the chief said, and during what appears to be a second Orange Crush event that is developing the following weekend.

The goal of the proposal is mainly to curb underage drinking, Bryson said. Those conducting themselves in a reasonable manner shouldn’t worry about officers patrolling the beach attempting to identify what is in their cup, he said.

According to the proposed text amendment sent out by city officials Wednesday, the areas where drinking beer, wine and cocktails would be banned include “parking lots, sidewalks, walkways, parks or public beaches of the city.”

It’s spring of an election year, and robocalls fill the air.

Macon-Bibb County voters might receive phone calls over the next few weeks to gauge their feelings about local political candidates and issues.

The automated polls, a type of robocall, are being used by candidates in both the Macon-Bibb mayoral and tax commissioner’s races leading up to the May 24 elections. Incumbent Mayor Robert Reichert is being challenged by former Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, and interim Tax Commissioner Wade McCord faces opposition from former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis.

While some of the candidates are using the calls to poll voters, others are so far relying on more traditional methods of campaigning during this election season.

Reichert said he’s using the automated calls because they have proven effective for him in previous campaigns.

A recent robocall by Reichert’s campaign asks potential voters to rank the importance of various issues in Macon-Bibb County, which can be helpful during and even beyond the election season, Reichert said.

While part of Reichert’s campaign strategy uses the automated calls, Edwards said he’s also going to ramp up his push for the mayor’s office in the upcoming days. Lately, he’s been meeting with people and organizing his campaign.

“We’ll open in the next day or two with some more aggressive activity,” Edwards said.

Meanwhile, in the race for tax commissioner, McCord said his campaign is using push poll calls. McCord, who became interim tax commissioner last September following the retirement of longtime Tax Commissioner Tommy Tedders, is gearing up to face Ellis in May.

McCord said the calls are a way to find out what people think is important about how the tax commissioner’s office operates. He also said the calls give him an opportunity to introduce himself to the public. Before the election, McCord said, he plans to release the results of his campaign’s telephone polls.

“We just want to get an idea of how people feel about my extensive work history in the tax commissioner’s office, with 21 years here and 10 of those years as chief deputy tax commissioner,” McCord said.

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