Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 18, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 18, 2016

The Mason-Dixon line separating Pennsylvania from Maryland was established on October 18, 1767.

In 1760, tired of border violence between the colonies’ settlers, the British crown demanded that the parties involved hold to an agreement reached in 1732. As part of Maryland and Pennsylvania’s adherence to this royal command, Mason and Dixon were asked to determine the exact whereabouts of the boundary between the two colonies. Though both colonies claimed the area between the 39th and 40th parallel, what is now referred to as the Mason-Dixon line finally settled the boundary at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes. The line was marked using stones, with Pennsylvania’s crest on one side and Maryland’s on the other.

Twenty years later, in late 1700s, the states south of the Mason-Dixon line would begin arguing for the perpetuation of slavery in the new United States while those north of line hoped to phase out the ownership of human chattel. This period, which historians consider the era of “The New Republic,” drew to a close with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which accepted the states south of the line as slave-holding and those north of the line as free. The compromise, along with those that followed it, eventually failed.

On October 18, 1867, the United States took over Alaska from Russia and ran up Old Glory there for the first time.

Separated from the far eastern edge of the Russian empire by only the narrow Bering Strait, the Russians had been the first Europeans to significantly explore and develop Alaska.

Seeing the giant Alaska territory as a chance to cheaply expand the size of the nation, William H. Seward, President Andrew Johnson‘s secretary of state, moved to arrange the purchase of Alaska. Agreeing to pay a mere $7 million for some 591,000 square miles of land-a territory twice the size of Texas and equal to nearly a fifth of the continental United States-Seward secured the purchase of Alaska at the ridiculously low rate of less than 2¢ an acre.

On October 18, 1870, Rockdale and McDuffie Counties were created when Georgia Governor Rufus Bullock signed legislation creating them.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


In-person early voting started with a bang yesterday, with several jurisdictions seeing hours-long lines.

Data released by the Secretary of State‘s office showed that at least 84,994 voters cast ballots yesterday in the November 8 General Election. Here are the four counties with highest turnout yesterday:

DeKalb – 7585
Fulton – 7224
Cobb – 3675
Forsyth – 3495
Fayette – 2092
Henry – 2007
Columbia – 1879
Muscogee – 1749
Gwinnett – 1581
Hall – 1566
Cherokee – 1300
Chatham – 1043

In Gwinnett County, at least 1000 voters cast ballots yesterday, with waits reportedly up to 4 hours.

By 3 p.m., 977 ballots had been given out at the Gwinnett County Voter Registrations and Elections Office, located at 455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200. Voter registration and elections director Lynn Ledford said she hasn’t seen these type of numbers for early voting since the 2008 presidential election between Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama and Republican Party nominee John McCain.

Once voters finished the process, they walked away smiling or looking frustrated, but everyone seemed relieved.

“This has been extraordinary,” said Ledford, who has served in her position for the last 29 years. “There have been many more people than I anticipated. I thought this would happen in the second week (of early voting) — not the first.”

By 6:30 a.m., voters had formed a line outside the building, Ledford said.

But voting didn’t start until 8 a.m. and continued until 5 p.m.

Macon voters saw a wait of up to an hour for advance voting yesterday.

As the lunch-hour crowd stretched out the door at the Bibb County Board of Elections, more than 500 people had already cast ballots.

According to the election board, 1,431 people in Bibb voted Monday — 1,165 at the Pio Nono office and 266 at Terminal Station, the county’s other early voting site.

A woman waiting had on a red T-shirt with “Deplorable” on it in white letters. The word has become a rallying cry for Donald Trump supporters after his opponent, Hillary Clinton, referred to some of his backers as “deplorables.”

“Miss Hillary called us ‘deplorable,’ ” the woman in the red T-shirt said. “So I got my ‘deplorable’ on.”

The Henry County Elections Office had a line out the door yesterday for the opening of advance voting.

Athens-Clarke County voters were lined up outside when workers arrived to open the polls there.

“I knew it was going to be busy,” said Cora Wright, the county’s interim elections supervisor. The elections office has been fielding calls for the past month from people wanting to know when early voting started, Wright said, but even so, the volume of first-day early voting clearly was a surprise to her and the rest of the elections office staff.

Elections personnel began arriving at the elections office at 155 E. Washington St. at 7 a.m., an hour before they opened to accept the first voters, and already there was a line at the door, Wright said. Soon after the office opened, the line stretched several dozen yards up Washington Street, nearly to the College Avenue intersection, and elections personnel were handing out sample ballots to waiting voters, in hopes of speeding up the voting process.

Sunshine and relatively mild temperatures helped make the wait tolerable, and Wright was pleased that the crowd remained even-tempered as elections personnel had to limit the elections office to five voters at a time, keeping the dozens of other voters waiting on the wide sidewalk along Washington Street.

Richmond County voters will decide whether to extend the one-cent E-SPLOST sales tax for schools.

On the Nov. 8 ballot, residents will have the option to vote yes or no to re-impose the education local option sales tax, which is currently levied in the county and has been responsible for enabling construction, expansion and renovation projects at 40 Richmond County schools since 2012.

“This tax is extremely important for our students,” Richmond County Superintendent Angela Pringle said. “We need to continue to upgrade buildings and technology in order to help our kids succeed.”

In all, the preliminary construction budget for the renewed tax is $144.6 million, and an additional $25.5 million would go toward technology, vehicles, textbooks and furniture.

“People want to make sure this tax is truly going to the kids – and it is,” [Richmond County school board attorney Pete] Fletcher said. “None of the money goes toward salaries, operations or maintenance. All proceeds go toward construction, infrastructure or tangible items that have a defined capital life span.”

Dougherty County also saw significant turnout in yesterday’s early voting.

By mid-morning, voters had filled the government center’s second floor, lining up 30-deep to make their voices heard in what is expected to be a busy election year thanks to a hotly contested presidential election.

“We’ve had a great day in the elections office,” Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said. “I wish all of our elections started out like this. By 3:30 we already had over 1,000 people (vote).

“We average about 1,000 a day when it’s a presidential election, so we had a great day.”

Bob Rogers of Street Grace spoke to the Forsyth County News about Amendment #2, the Safe Harbor Amendment.

“It is anticipated it will generate up to $2 million a year for funding for restorative care for survivors,” said Bob Rogers, CEO of Street Grace, a faith-based organization whose aim is to end the demand for domestic minor sex trafficking in Georgia.

He said no taxes would be imposed on regular citizens or businesses and that the nature of an amendment to the state Constitution means “those monies are set aside outside of the budget and will never be used for any other purpose or manipulated for political gain … it is a forever fund.”

The fund would allow for restorative care, awareness campaigns, advocacy, rescue services, housing series, education, medical care, counseling, mental health care, life skills and job skills training and transitional support.

Rogers said people are just starting to talk about human sex trafficking, especially child sex trafficking, but that the issue is at a critical mass in “awareness of both the legislature and the general.”

Georgia would be one of the first states to pass a measure like Safe Harbor Yes, which has garnered the support of figures like former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Attorney General Sam Olens.

The statistics [are] downright disastrous, not just for Georgia but for a large portion of our country,” Olens said at a press conference on the amendment at the end of August.

Rogers said child sex trafficking is second only to drug trafficking for the fastest-growing underground criminal activity in the world, “and it will surpass it in the next five years. This is not a problem that happens in other states. This is not a problem that happens in other communities. It is statistically occurring in our neighborhood and in your community. Just the magnitude of the statistics and the research that says one in four girls will be sexually exploited before the age of 18 and one in six boys will be.”

Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) will appear at an event about the “March” graphics novels he co-authored.

The event will take place at the Norcross Cultural Arts & Community Center at 10 College St. at 3 p.m.

The No. 1 New York Times bestseller “March: Book Three” is the final installment in the series and a National Book Award finalist. The novel tells the story of how Lewis and young activists used nonviolence to fight for civil rights for black people in the Jim Crow south in the early 1960s.

Whether to “thaw” the property tax freeze in Columbus is getting deep into the weeds.

Were the referendum to thaw the freeze pass, then be challenged and overturned in court, what would happen? The pro-thaw side maintains that were the thaw ordinance-to-be overturned in court, the city would revert to the tax assessment freeze. Opponents say a successful challenge would throw out both systems because the freeze would have been repealed. That would leave all homeowners under the fair market value system.

[Former State Senator Seth] Harp and [Mayor Teresa] Tomlinson, who have debated the issue publicly, disagree on this and several other objections to the referendum.

State Senator Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) faces a Democratic opponent in the General Election.

“People are hungry for a more moderate voice, and they’re excited about having somebody who can be reasonable and be passionate and really be able to relate to a lot of different people in this area,” said [Jaha] Howard, who is running as a Democrat.

But Hill touts his record of actively sponsoring legislation on issues consistent with what he says his district cares about — education, transportation and budget reform — and said he will continue to do so if re-elected.

“I’m not a legislator that just sits in the chair and votes,” Hill said.

Hill voted for the Opportunity School District’s enabling legislation and said no schools in District 6 are in danger of becoming part of the district.

“It provides an opportunity for schools that have been failing for three consecutive years to have different leadership, to change the trajectory of those schools that have proven to continue to fail,” Hill said. “If you fail three (years) in a row (to meet a state education benchmark), then somebody else needs to have a chance to change the story for these kids,” Hill said.

He said a lot of noise and angst surrounds the referendum and he said the majority of the opposition stems from communities with successful schools that would not be affected by the legislation.

During the 2015-16 session, Hill sponsored legislation that supported expanding MARTA — although not specifically to Cobb — and he pushed for increased funding of transportation projects through tapping into the state’s motor fuel tax. He said the state government’s solution to alleviating traffic is through providing more resources to transportation projects which will help ease traffic when those construction projects are completed, without raising taxes.

The Marietta School Board is expected to vote tonight to put an E-SPLOST on the ballot in 2017.

Gainesville Board of Education members approved a resolution opposing the Opportunity School District Amendment #1, with board member Sammie Smith abstaining.

Kennesaw City Council member Jimmy Dickens will end his standing protest designed to bring attention to what he says is a need for more raises for city employees.

Warner Robins City Council approved a Vietnam veterans park on Monday.

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell has drawn an ethics complaint over accepting contributions in excess of the permissible amounts.

Georgia Republicans on Monday filed a complaint against Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell for accepting too much money from campaign donors.

Dean Kelley, the immediate past chairman of the Walker County GOP, and Rossville Precinct Chairman Mike Cameron told the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission that Heiskell needed to be investigated. A Times Free Press analysis of Heiskell’s contribution reports since the beginning of 2013 show that 14 donors each gave more than the $2,600 limit for one election.

These donors gave a total of $56,250 — $19,850 more than allowed.

“Bebe continues to show us her disrespect for Georgia State law!” Shannon Whitfield, the Republican candidate for commissioner, wrote on his Facebook page Sunday. “This is just the latest chapter of Bebe snubbing her nose at the State of Georgia. Who in Atlanta is protecting Bebe?”

For her part, Heiskell has not admitted to taking excess donations.

“I am looking into the accusation and will address it once I have determined the full extent of the problem, if any,” Heiskell wrote on her Facebook page Sunday.

Easter Seals Southern Georgia broke ground for Megan’s House, which will provide respite care for families of children with disabilities.

“We are very excited about this Megan’s House,” said Easter Seals Southern Georgia Executive Director Beth English.

English said the new respite facility is expected to serve three to four families at one time. A fundraising campaign has been ongoing since 2014 to raise funds to build the new facility that will meet what officials say is a growing need.

The Easter Seals director said children stay at the center, on average, somewhere between two days and two weeks at a time. An expanded center, like the one planned on Forrester Parkway, would allow Megan’s House to put three families on the schedule while having an additional space for emergencies.

“It will enhance our ability to care for more children,” English said.

Click here to learn more about Megan’s House.

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