Sample ballots available for May 22 primary
By Traci Rowell
Georgia’s general primary is May 22 and voters can cast their ballots early from April 30 – May 18, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voters working long hours outside their counties can take advantage of Saturday, May 12 to cast an early ballot between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Pickens County advanced voting will take place in the elections office located at 83 Pioneer Road in Jasper. Dawson voters will cast their early ballots at the Dawson Board of Elections office located at 96 Academy Ave. in Dawsonville.
Voters preferring to participate at their assigned polling locations on Election Day can verify their polling place and times by checking My Voting Page online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. This site, part of the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, also provides links to sample ballots for each county, and information about qualified candidates.
Voter turnout for general primary elections has historically been low for both Pickens and Dawson counties. Records from the May 24, 2016 primary show that only 21.58 percent of registered voters in Pickens and 27.81 percent of registered voters in Dawson cast their ballots.
Several special issues are on the Democratic Party ballot this year. The first issue voters will see is the potential prohibition of the sale and distribution of bump stocks in the state of Georgia. Other issues on the Democratic ballot include Medicaid expansion, redistricting authority and funding for mass transit.
School property tax hot issue with Pickens seniors
Pickens County voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, will have the opportunity to weigh in on a hotly-contested issue concerning school property taxes. The ballot contains two options for voters. Option One would leave the current law intact regarding who can receive a school property tax exemption upon reaching age 62. Option two would establish a bi-partisan committee to hear from all interested parties in the county regarding the existing exemption guidelines. The committee would then present its findings to the Georgia General Assembly for the 2019 session, outlining its recommendations for changes to the existing law.
The school property tax has long been a sore point for many older Pickens County residents who no longer have school-aged children and are often on fixed retirement incomes. Many surrounding counties have more lenient exemption guidelines.
According to Lee Williamson with Pickens Seniors for Change, the existing guidelines for the exemption are outdated. “If the original law passed in 1997 had contained a cost of living adjustment clause, the current $25,000 income cap would have been raised to between $33,000 and $34,000 by now,” said Williamson. She also takes issue with how the existing law calculates total household income for tax purposes, explaining that “if you have someone living in your house that is caring for you, their income (under the current law) becomes a part of your household income, even if they are not a member of your family.”
Most offices contested
Almost all of the offices listed on the party-specific primary ballots are contested, with as few as two to as many as nine candidates running. On the non-partisan ballot, however, only one office is contested, with both Ken Hodges and Ken Shigley vying to replace Judge John Ellington in the Georgia Court of Appeals.
There is also a contested Special Election on the Pickens County ballot, with Doug Patterson and Kirk Raffield running to fill the unexpired term of former Jasper City Councilman James (Jim) Looney. Looney resigned from the council on February 5, 2018 in order to become interim city manager for the City of Jasper.
For further election information and assistance, Pickens County voters can call the office of the Board of Elections at 706-253-8781. Dawson County voters can reach their registration office at 706-344-3640.