Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2016

On May 20, 1791, George Washington spent his third day in Augusta, where he visited Richmond Academy.

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

Two years ago today, Georgia voters went to the polls in the earliest Primary elections in modern history. In the Republican Primary, 605,355 ballots were cast in the Senate contest, while the Democratic Primary for Senate saw 328,710 ballots.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of early voting before the Tuesday primary elections.

Earlier this week, more than 10,000 ballots had been cast in DeKalb, where the CEO position is contested in the Democratic Primary.

Early voting is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Brookhaven City Hall, the Chamblee Civic Center, the Clark Harrison Building in Decatur, the Dunwoody Library, Berean Christian Church Community Center, the Stonecrest Library, South DeKalb Mall, the Tucker Recreation Center and the DeKalb Elections Office on Memorial Drive.

In Hall County, nearly 2500 early ballots had been cast.

Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee says 2,455 voters had voted early through Thursday and is projecting an overall turnout of 35 percent.

Statewide voter turnout has been strong, according to Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

In Hall and other North Georgia counties, voters can select among five GOP candidates for the 9th District House seat, plus candidates for the state legislature, Board of Commissioners and school board. Each party also has nonbinding ballot questions on various issues.

Early voting is available in Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville, and other local election offices. Check your county registrar for specific sites.

Athens-Clarke County election officials said early voting turnout was “kind of slow.”

As of Tuesday, just 529 people had cast early ballots. Early voting opened on May 2.

In part, Wright attributed the low turnout to the fact that none of the Athens-Clarke County commissioners up for re-election this year drew any opposition.

There are, in fact, just two contested local races on Athens-Clarke ballots. In a countywide race, local attorney Dave Hudgins and Toni Meadow, the county’s deputy tax commissioner, are vying as Democrats for the tax commissioner’s post. Incumbent tax commissioner Mitch Schrader is not seeking re-election.

Meanwhile, voters in the eastern part of the county are deciding whether Athens attorney A. Kamau Hull or University of Georgia professor John A. Knox will occupy the District 8 seat on the Clarke County Board of Education, where incumbent David Huff decided not to seek re-election to the nonpartisan board seat.

Polk County may see more than 2000 early and advance ballots, according to Northwest Georgia News.

According to the Board of Elections at the close of business of Wedneday, May 18, the vote tally was up to 1,997 ballots cast early in person or by mail.

Cedartown and Rockmart’s early voting precincts at the Board of Elections office in the County Administration building in Cedartown or at the Nathan Dean Center in Rockmart will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday for the final day of the early voting period.

Early voting in Columbus appears to be correlated to contested local elections for Columbus City Council and Board of Education, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Most precincts topping the rankings for early votes cast so far are in districts where candidates either are vying for vacant seats or challenging incumbents, and most are either in midtown or on the south side of town.

Also driving the vote in Columbus, this time literally, a teenager named David Smith.

“During the last two primaries going on I’ve been taking a lot of friends and family to come vote, well over a hundred,” said David Smith who has taken on the challenge of packing the polls.

This includes friends and family who need a ride to cast their ballot, or who need a nudge to vote at all.

“It’s a combination of different people, it is people who need a ride to the polls, my friends who don’t have that ride. It’s also people who need a little nudge. Young people have a bad tendency not to go out and vote, not to care about local elections but I try to instill in them, I say hey this is an important race whoever you vote for.”

In Columbus, Georgia, Mark LaJoye was restored to the ballot in his campaign for Sheriff of Muscogee County after an earlier decision to disqualify him.

A Superior Court judge has reversed the Muscogee County elections board’s decision to disqualify Republican sheriff’s candidate Mark LaJoye.

LaJoye’s attorney, Mark Shelnutt, confirmed the decision Thursday night.

Officials had yet to hear results of Democrat Donna Tompkins’ appeal, which was based on the same issues as LaJoye’s.

In his decision, Judge Gary McCorvey wrote that the law setting standards for sheriff’s candidates had the stated intent of ensuring such candidates were qualified, and the local elections board did not contend LaJoye was not qualified, only that he failed to meet specific deadlines for filing paperwork.

The board decided to disqualify LaJoye and Tompkins for failing to comply with another section of the state law setting qualifications for sheriff candidates. The board ruled they neglected to provide certified copies of their birth certificates and file an affidavit swearing they graduated high school by the same March 16 deadline Brown and Smith faced to submit fingerprints.

Frank Austin has dropped his appeal of a decision removing him from the ballot in House District 142.

[L]ess than an hour before his scheduled appearance in Fulton County Superior Court to challenge the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, Austin announced via written message that he was withdrawing his petition for appeal.

“It was highly unlikely that the judge would have overturned the state’s decision,” Austin wrote.

Candidates must live in a district for a full year ahead of a state House general election. The investigation of Austin was triggered when another candidate, Gerald Harvey, filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office.

Last month, an administrative law judge ruled that Austin has lived in the district only since this past March. He needed to have lived there since November 8, 2015, to qualify to run.

That administrative law judge found that Austin had not changed the address on his driver’s license or his voter registration to the Bethesda Avenue address in the district until this year. The house also was without water service for much of the past year. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp formally accepted that ruling last month and announced that votes for Austin would not count.

Yet another Georgia mayor in hot water with the law, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A spokesperson for the Office of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal confirmed that the indictment for City of Meigs Mayor Linda Harris has been received and a commission will be formed to determine if Harris should be suspended from office. Any action by the commission will not take place until well after Tuesday’s recall election for the controversial mayor.

Harris was indicted by a Thomas County Superior Court grand jury on May 5 for theft by taking and violation of oath of office for an incident in October 2015 in which she allegedly stole $80 from the Meigs City Hall. According to Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Miller, per Georgia code, his office mailed a certified copy of the indictment to the governor’s office on May 6, the day after it was handed down.

Republican State Senator Charlie Bethel faces an intraparty challenge on Tuesday.

Bethel, 40, is the chair of the Insurance and Labor Committee, vice chair of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, and holds seats on Appropriations and both Judiciary committees. Bethel said being a veteran member of the Senate has given him more opportunities to work on legislative projects and a greater role in helping to shape the future of the state.

“Success comes along the way and what you measure as success changes the longer you are there,” Bethel said. “Your first year, you learn the system and you just try not to make a mistake. As you are there longer, you have more understanding of the dynamics and more relationships are built, and you want to work more strategically and with a little more focus.”

“Obviously education and a quality workforce have been a big part of my agenda, and those are quality pieces,” Bethel said when asked about his biggest accomplishments.

Bethel was an original sponsor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Language from that bill was included in the bill that Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed earlier this year. Bethel said both that bill and a bill vetoed by Deal that would have allowed registered gun owners to carry guns in some parts of college campuses will be in the spotlight again next session.

“Neither one of them are going away,” Bethel said. “What they will look like and in what form they will be in when they get there remains to be seen.”

More and more, the middle class in Georgia is losing its voice in state politics, according to Conda Lowery Goodson.

Goodson, 42, says she wants to be that voice of the middle class in the Georgia Senate and is running against incumbent Charlie Bethel in Tuesday’s Republican primary for District 54. No Democrat qualified. District 54 includes all of Whitfield and Murray counties and parts of Gordon and Pickens counties.

“So many people have problems or expenses due to a lot of the laws and regulations passed and there is no one for them to go to with their problems and the people’s voices are not being heard,” Goodson said. “They are passing a lot of laws that are hurting the people and not benefiting the people. With a lot of research, I decided someone needed to step up for the people and truly be their voice.”

I’d love to hear the 911 call and police radio chatter on this one. A man was arrested in full Stormtrooper turnout in Newborn, Georgia.

A Newton County man had to spend a night in jail and is now facing charges after his Star Wars hobby may have taken him to the dark side.

Justin Marling’s Stormtrooper fandom created concern on Sunday in the small town of Newborn, which is about 20 miles north of Monticello.

Marling was walking down Pitts Chapel Road in full armor and a plastic gun.

He says he did it was to raise awareness for a charitable cause: Star Wars Force for Change.

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office stopped him.

“According to the incident report, when deputies pulled up, Marling had two hands on what they thought was a real weapon. They told him to put the weapon down, but Marling turned away and continued walking. Deputies gave a second command, and it was at that point Marling put the gun down and took a step back.

“I was scared, because their guns are real. Mine isn’t.”

He was arrested for reckless conduct and wearing a mask. Georgia Law says that’s not allowed unless it’s for a holiday or a function.

Marling was released from jail Tuesday on a $2,000 bond.

It turns out that the anti-masking statute has been upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Georgia’s highest court ruled the opposite way in a 1990 decision upholding that state’s anti-masking law, In that case, Klan member Shade Miller challenged his conviction for publicly wearing a Klan hood.

The Georgia Supreme Court found that the purposes of the law were the same as those of the Goshen, Ind., ordinance: to protect the public from intimidation and violence and to aid law enforcement officials in apprehending criminals. But, unlike the federal judge in Indiana, the Georgia court found that these purposes far outweighed the Klan’s right to associate anonymously.

Looking at the history of the Klan in general, rather than at the activities of the particular group whose member had filed the case, the court emphasized that masked Klansmen had a long record of “harassment, intimidation and violence against racial and religious minorities.”

Unlike laws struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Georgia court reasoned, the anti-masking laws do not require the Klan to reveal the names and addresses of its members, nor do they stop Klan members from meeting secretly or wearing their hoods on private property.

The anti-masking law “only prevents masked appearance in public under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable apprehension of intimidation, threats or impending violence.” See State v. Miller, 260 Ga. 669 (1990).

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