The State Elections Board voted today to sanction Athens-Clarke County for using paper ballots instead of the new voting machines the state recently sent Georgia counties.
After a hearing held at UGA that lasted nearly eight hours, the state board voted to require the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections to cover the $2,500 cost of the investigation into the decision. The state board will also fine the local board $5,000 for each day it continues to use paper ballots.
ACC could have faced a fine of over $5 million—$5,000 for each of the more than 1,000 paper ballots that had already been cast.
Early voters in the presidential primary are currently using paper ballots after the ACC Board of Elections voted last week to ditch the state’s new voting machines.
The board voted 3–2 Mar. 3 (with chairman Jesse Evans, Willa Fambrough and new member Rocky Raffle in favor, and Charles Knapper and Patricia Till opposed) to switch to paper ballots for the Mar. 24 presidential primary over concerns that the new machines’ large screens don’t give voters enough privacy. State law requires counties to use the voting system provided by the state unless it’s “impossible or impracticable.” County attorney Judd Drake told the board it will have a hard time meeting that standard, and Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee said privacy can be provided.
Brian Patterson, acting district attorney for Oconee and Clarke counties, told Oconee County Democrats last month that, if he becomes district attorney on a permanent basis, he will resurrect a number of unsolved murder cases in the two counties.
He also said he will increase the investigation of organized criminal activity and gang activity, continue to prioritize crimes against women and children, and promote alternative court programs to keep people from having a criminal records for lesser offenses.
At the time he spoke, Patterson was chief assistant district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit serving the two counties, but he moved up to acting district attorney on Mar. 1 when Ken Mauldin resigned rather than complete his term.
The qualifying period to run for local, state and federal offices ended today. Here's a list of who's running in Athens. (D) and (R) indicate party affiliation; most local races are nonpartisan. Asterisks indicate incumbents.
Athens-Clarke County Commission
District 2: Mariah Parker*
District 4: Michael Stapor, Allison Wright*
District 6: Jesse Houle, Jerry NeSmith*
District 8: Andrea Farnham, Kamau Hull, Andrea Farnham
District 10: Mike Hamby*, Knowa Johnson
In-person early voting for the Democratic presidential primary started Monday at the ACC Board of Elections (155 E. Washington St.) and will expand to four other locations later this month.
Office hours are 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for Wednesday, Mar. 18, when the office will stay open until 7 p.m. The Board of Elections will also be open from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 14 and 1–5 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 15.
The week of Mar. 16–20, voters can also cast ballots at the ACC Library (2023 Baxter St.), the Cooperative Extension Office (275 Cleveland Road), the Miriam Moore Community Center (410 McKinley Drive) and room 103 in the basement of City Hall (301 College Ave.). The first three sites will be open from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., with City Hall opening at 8 a.m. All four will stay open until 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 18.
Allison Wright will run for a third term on the Athens-Clarke County Commission, she announced today.
Wright, a medical illustrator, has represented District 4, the Five Points area, since 2013.
In her announcement, she took partial credit for a number of initiatives during those seven-plus years, including fare-free transit for children, seniors and the disabled; affordable housing; police body cameras; and addressing discrimination at downtown bars.
She said she wants to continue to expand transit, provide training on discrimination and sexual assault to bar employees, and address poverty and the aging population.
The resignation of District Attorney Ken Mauldin has cast uncertainty on the race to succeed him. Will there even be an election for DA this year?
Erin Stacer of Athens for Everyone and Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tim Denson organized a delivery of over 1,500 petition signatures to Gov. Brian Kemp, asking him to allow the voters to decide who will next serve them as DA. While at the Capitol, the group also asked their state representatives to weigh in publicly on this situation.
As expected, Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Jerry NeSmith will be running for re-election, he announced today.
NeSmith has represented District 6, the Atlanta Highway area mostly outside the Loop, since 2013.
"The Sixth District has become more economically stable," he said in a news release. "We are at the threshold of a renewed Sixth District that is ripe for commercial redevelopment. Neighborhoods in District 6 remain very healthy, overall, with active citizen participation in business/neighborhood issues, county activities and policy-making."
ACC Commissioner Jerry NeSmith will have a challenge from the left this year, as progressive activist Jesse Houle announced they're running against the District 6 incumbent.
Houle was part of Occupy Athens and one of the cofounders of Athens for Everyone, the group that grew out of Commissioner Tim Denson’s failed 2014 mayoral campaign and later helped elect a slate of progressive candidates to the Mayor and Commission. Houle is also a musician, operations manager at Nuci’s Space and a fixture at the podium during the commission’s public comment periods.
Laura Mick wants to know what your voting plan is.
It is 11 a.m. on the bitterly cold Sunday morning prior to the New Hampshire primary, and the 42-year-old Granite State native is carefully navigating the inch of ice on the sidewalks of Manchester’s low-income, heavily immigrant 5th Ward in order to remind its residents to vote. And to remind them that, even if they are convicted felon or haven’t yet registered, they can still vote in the primary. Also, they can get a ride if they need it.
A canvasser with the New Hampshire Interfaith Action Fund, an affiliate of the Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP), which unities “religious, labor and community organizations rooted in faith and democratic values” and advocates for “policies that will build community across difference and promote a just society for all the people of New Hampshire,” Mick can relate to how tough it is to make it to the polls.
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