With candidate announcements for the 2016 elections beginning as early as last year, the Nov. 3 general election has become a source of confusion for some.
Next month, voters in Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and Kingston will go to the polls to vote on municipal positions. In addition, a countywide special election for an educational special purpose local option sales tax extension will be held.
Municipal elections in Taylorsville, Adairsville and White were called off after only one person qualified for each office.
“We do our best to educate people what’s going on. We did not expect this countywide SPLOST, which I am sure is causing some confusion because people are used to the odd-number years there’s nothing unless you live in the city or it’s a special election to fill a vacancy,” Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk said. “… They have this countywide SPLOST and people just aren’t expecting it. … I’ve talked to people who, frankly, think that must mean we are voting on a president this year.
“… This is one of the few times you get to vote directly on the taxes you to get to pay. Everything else you vote on a representative who votes on your behalf and sets the tax rate.”
Contested races on Nov. 3 include:
• Cartersville City Council Ward 6 incumbent Lori Pruitt faces Taff Wren.
• In the Emerson mayoral race, incumbent Al Pallone faces Charlie Lowry.
• Two seats are open on the Euharlee City Council with four candidates running — incumbent Craig Guyton, David Duncan, Kathy Foulk and Fred Werner.
• Two races in Kingston are contested. Mayoral incumbent Wanda Penson faces Ronald Casey. Incumbent Harold Posey faces Vivian Shaw for the city council’s Post 2 seat.
If a runoff is necessary in those races, it will be held Dec. 1.
The one percent educational SPLOST will go to the Bartow County and Cartersville City school systems for a maximum of 20 calendar quarters, or five years.
In addition to the barrage of 2016 presidential coverage, residents are facing earlier voting dates.
“It kind of got spread out is what happened. On one hand, you’ve got the presidential preference primary, which is March 1. … That was our secretary of state’s effort to — what’s the word he uses for it? … The earlier you have a presidential preference primary, the more attention the candidates pay to your state. That was him trying to push to get the presidential candidates to pay more attention to the Southern states,” Kirk said. “Then the other thing that happened, and this happened a couple years ago, is there is a federal court ruling against the state of Georgia about how we do runoff elections. We didn’t give the military enough time to vote absentee ballots for runoffs, so that spread the entire calendar out.”
Georgia now must provide 45 days between every election, including runoffs, that include federal candidates.
The changes moved the general primary election to May 24, 2016.
“That’s where the candidates are squaring off, so it’ll be narrowed down to just the one person for the general election. I can’t say that for sure, but historically that’s what happens. The qualifying for that happens the week after we certify the presidential preference primary [the week of March 7],” Kirk said.
Bartow County voters in 2016 will vote on all constitutional offices, such as commissioner, district attorney, chief magistrate and sheriff.
“Historically, our biggest turnouts are presidential years; it’s one of the few times we get above 50 percent. I just hope we can build a momentum and keep them coming,” Kirk said.
“Something we have got to help people understand is that there are more people that get elected besides the president. There are a lot of reasons to have an election besides voting on the president. There are a lot of very important reasons.”
Absentee and early voting for the Nov. 3 general election will be Oct. 12-30.
For more information or questions, call the Board of Elections at 770-387-5098 or visit http://www.bartowga.org/departments/elections/index.php.