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Election Day is around the corner. Do you know which ballot you want?

Great deal on voting machines saves taxpayers a big chunk of money

Director of Elections Nancy Boren, with help from a former employee now working in the Adams County, Colo., elections office, was able to overhaul the local voting machines for little cost to taxpayers in 2016.
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Director of Elections Nancy Boren, with help from a former employee now working in the Adams County, Colo., elections office, was able to overhaul the local voting machines for little cost to taxpayers in 2016.

Maybe the most important tip for early voting in Columbus this week is: Check the sample ballots first.

Early in-person voting begins Monday and continues every day until May 18, including weekends. Voting machines will be set up in the community room of Columbus’ Citizens Service Center, 311 Citizens Way, where voters may cast ballots 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

They must bring a government-issued photo ID, and they should remember the main entrance of the service center no longer is locked, as it used to be for security. Voters previously could enter only through the rear of the building by the parking garage. Both entrances are accessible now.

Those working on political campaigns should be mindful no campaigning, including the use of yard signs, is allowed within 150 feet of the building’s outer wall.

But the main thing voters should keep in mind is this:

“They have to know which ballot they want,” said Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations.

That’s because Georgia’s holding state party primaries in addition to local nonpartisan elections, and as Georgians don’t register by political party, they have a choice: They can ask for a Republican Primary ballot, a Democratic Primary ballot, or strictly a nonpartisan ballot.

The last option is the most limiting, as the nonpartisan races will be on each party ballot. Choosing a nonpartisan ballot means giving up the chance to vote in either party’s primary, though it also ties the voter to neither party’s runoff, should one ensue.

Those who pick a nonpartisan ballot in the primary can vote in either party’s runoff. Those who choose a party’s primary ballot cannot vote in the other party’s runoff.

Voters unsure of which ballot they’d prefer should browse them ahead of time. They can do that online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page,” www.mvp.sos.ga.gov, where they can download sample ballots to view after logging in with their name, address and date of birth.

They also can print out sample ballots for friends and family who don’t have online access.

Besides Georgia races for governor and other state executives, the state House and Senate and U.S. Congress, Muscogee County will have elections for mayor, the five odd-numbered Columbus Council seats plus a special election for at-large council Post 10, the four even-numbered school board districts and the school board’s at-large post. Thirty candidates in 11 contested races are running for those local offices.

Voters checking their ballot options should not put too much emphasis on the questions posed by each party. They are not referenda, and have no force of law. The vote on a ballot question amounts to little more than a survey, and not a scientific one.

“Should the sale and distribution of bump stocks be prohibited in the state of Georgia?” is the first question on the Democratic ballot. And even if everyone votes “yes,” bump stocks won’t be banned in Georgia.

“Should casinos be allowed in Muscogee County?” asks the Republican ballot, and no matter the results, casinos won’t be allowed in Columbus unless the law changes, and a party ballot question doesn’t change it.

Yet when some voters find out they didn’t get to answer another party’s ballot question, “they get irritated,” said Boren, who suspects those folks believe a ballot question carries legal weight.

Another vote that won’t matter much now is a vote for Bob Roth in the Muscogee school board District 6 race, from which Roth has withdrawn. The ballots already had been printed by the time he pulled out, so his name still appears with those of incumbent Mark Cantrell and challenger Eddie Obleton. Notices will be posted in polls to tell voters Roth no longer is in the race.

Another thing Boren wants voters to remember is they can’t come to vote early in-person and ask for a paper ballot. Paper ballots are available only to those who ask to vote absentee by mail.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is May 18, but to be counted the ballot has to arrive at the elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, May 22. So voters would want to request a mail-in ballot days before the deadline to get it mailed to them and mailed back to the elections office on time.

Anyone who’d like a mail-in absentee ballot may request it at the “My Voter Page,” where they can download the absentee application, fill it out, and email it to nboren@columbusga.org, fax it to 706-225-4394, or mail it to Muscogee County Elections and Registrations, P.O. Box 1340, Columbus, Ga., 31902.

Those voting early in-person may find it more convenient than waiting until Election Day, but that is no longer guaranteed, because early voting now is a popular option, and often lines form at the poll.

In 2016, when Columbus offered more weekend voting, people swarmed the service center to cast ballots.

“Weekends have picked up,” Boren said, noting the center was averaging about 900 voters a day on Saturdays and Sundays. “The Saturday and Sunday voting really picked up, and it’s become a popular option.”

What election workers saw two years ago was a shift in which early voting dropped off in the early morning and around the close of business, about 5:30 p.m., Boren said.

All 25 city voting precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, May 22, for the state party primaries and local nonpartisan races. Only one local polling place is changing: Residents who previously voted at Eddy Middle School or the National Infantry Museum off South Lumpkin Road now will vote at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 1953 Torch Hill Road.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT?

This is a composite ballot for the May 22, 2018, state party primaries and local nonpartisan elections in Columbus. Individual ballots will vary depending on residence and the voter’s choice of a Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan ballot. Muscogee County’s local, nonpartisan races are on all three ballots.

GOVERNOR

Republican Primary:

L.S. “Casey” Cagle

Eddie Hayes

Hunter Hill

Brian Kemp

Clay Tippins

Marc Urbach

Michael Williams

Democratic Primary:

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Evans

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Republican Primary:

Geoff Duncan

Rick Jeffares

David Shafer

Democratic Primary:

Sarah Riggs Amico

Triana Arnold James

SECRETARY OF STATE

Republican Primary:

David Belle Isle

Buzz Brockway

Josh McKoon

Brad Raffensperger

Democratic Primary:

John Barrow

Dee Dawkins-Haigler

Rakeim “RJ” Hadley

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Republican Primary:

Chris Carr (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Charlie Bailey

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

Republican Primary:

Gary Black (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Fred Swann

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

Republican Primary:

Jim Beck

Jay Florence

Tracy Jordan

Democratic Primary:

Janice Laws

Cindy Zeldin

STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT

Republican Primary:

John Barge

Richard Woods (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Sid Chapman

Sam Mosteller

Otha E. Thornton Jr.

LABOR COMMISSIONER

Republican Primary:

Mark Butler (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Richard Keatley

Fred Quinn

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, DISTRICT 3

Republican Primary:

Chuck Eaton (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Lindy Miller

John Noel

Johnny C. White

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, DISTRICT 5

Republican Primary:

John Hitchins III

Tricia Pridemore (incumbent)

Democratic Primary:

Dawn A. Randolph

Doug Stoner

U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 2

Republican Primary:

Herman West Jr.

Democratic Primary:

Sanford Bishop (incumbent)

U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 3

Republican Primary:

Drew Ferguson (incumbent)

Philip Singleton

Democratic Primary:

Chuck Enderlin

Rusty Oliver

STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 15

Democratic Primary:

Ed Harbison (incumbent)

STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 29

Republican Primary:

Mayo “Biff” Hadden

Randy Robertson

Democratic Primary:

Ben Anderson

Valerie Haskins

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 133

Republican Primary:

Christopher Gyening

Vance Smith

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 134

Republican Primary:

Richard H. Smith (incumbent)

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 135

Democratic Primary:

Calvin Smyre (incumbent)

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 136

Democratic Primary:

Carolyn Hugley (incumbent)

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 137

Democratic Primary:

Debbie Buckner (incumbent)

NONPARTISAN JUDICIAL RACES

STATE SUPREME COURT

Running unopposed:

Michael P. Boggs (incumbent)

Britt Cagle Grant (incumbent)

John Ellington

Harold D. Melton (incumbent)

Nels Peterson (incumbent)

STATE COURT OF APPEALS

Stephen Dillard (incumbent)

STATE COURT OF APPEALS

Ken Hodges

Ken Shigley

STATE COURT OF APPEALS

Running unopposed:

Amanda H. Mercier

M. Yvette Miller

Clyde L. Reese III

Brian Rickman

MUSCOGEE STATE COURT JUDGE

Andy Prather (incumbent)

NONPARTISAN LOCAL RACES:

COLUMBUS MAYOR

Danny Arencibia

Zeph Baker

Beth Harris

Skip Henderson

Charles Edwin Roberts

Winfred Shipman

COUNCIL AT-LARGE, POST 9

Regina Liparto

Judy W. Thomas

SPECIAL ELECTION:

COUNCIL AT-LARGE, POST 10

Amy Askew Bryan

John House

Tollie Strode Jr.

COUNCIL DISTRICT 1

Jerry “Pops” Barnes

Gregory Blue

COUNCIL DISTRICT 3

Bruce Huff

Juanita Upshaw

COUNCIL DISTRICT 5

Charmaine Crabb

COUNCIL DISTRICT 7

Sia Etemadi

Jeremy Scott Hobbs

Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson

SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 2

Mike Edmondson

Sheryl Hobbs McCraine

Bart Steed

SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 4

Naomi Buckner

Toyia Tucker

SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 6

Mark Cantrell

Eddie V. Obleton

Bob Roth (withdrawn)

SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 8

Frank Myers

Philip T. Schley

SCHOOL BOARD, AT-LARGE POST 9

Kia L. Chambers

Tony McCool

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Republican Primary:

Should casinos be allowed in Muscogee County?

Should questions concerning taxes, SPLOST, tax freeze, or other taxes, only be on the ballot in November or general elections?

Democratic Primary:

Should the sale and distribution of bump stocks be prohibited in the state of Georgia?

Should Georgia pull down our federal tax dollars to save rural hospitals and create more than fifty thousand jobs by expanding Medicaid?

Should Georgia allow voters to elect our own representatives by amending our Constitution to place the power of drawing district lines under the authority of an independent, non-partisan commission?

Should Georgia alleviate traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and better connect communities by investing a substantial amount of existing tax dollars in mass transit?

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