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8/18/2009

Clay County Alcohol Vote Tuesday 8-18

by Christina Schappacher

The alcohol election is set for Tuesday, Aug. 18. All nine precincts will open for voting at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Residents will vote on four separate issues: “for” or “against” malt beverages; ABC store; unfortified wine and mixed beverages.

Early voting continues 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Election Board office, 54 Church Street in downtown Hayesville until Saturday, Aug. 15.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,333 people voted early and the board received 42 absentee mail-in ballots, according to county Elections Board Director Julie Hall.

The results of early voting will not be released until after the polls close Election Day.

“We don't even know the results,” Hall said. “Absentee and early voting results will be revealed at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18. The Board of Elections finds out when everybody else does.”

Opening day of early voting produced record numbers, but as the days wore on, it leveled off to a steady pace. Still the numbers are considered high. Hall said 26 percent of the county's 8,661 registered voters have already marked their ballots.

“That's a really good turnout for early voting,” she said. “As of now, it's not as good as the 2008 presidential election, but it's better than the 2006 county-wide election, and it's still not over.”

Charlie Shelton, a local pastor and out-spoken member of the group opposing alcohol sales, says he is confident the county will remain dry.

“I think we're going to win this thing,” said Shelton, a member of Clay County Not For Sale. “People in Clay County don't want it, and people will voice their opinion. I think we'll win it by a wide majority.”

The anti-alcohol sales people are assuredly hoping history repeats itself. During the last alcohol election, July 24, 1990, there were three alcohol issues on the ballot, about the same as this time with two of them lumped into one. All three issues were soundly defeated. That year 3,079 people voted with 61 percent of them opposing any form of alcohol sales.

Over the 19 years since the last alcohol vote (July 1990), the demographics of the county have changed and there are nearly 3,500 more voters registered which some believe will generate a different outcome.

Pat Margo, spearheading the group supporting alcohol sales, “Coalition to Keep Tax Dollars in Clay County,” is not making any heavy predictions.

“I never count an election until it's over,” Margo said. “My feeling is everybody needs to get out and vote because every vote counts — it ain't over until it's over.”

While no one can predict the outcome, Hall said one thing she can assure the public is that the election will be monitored closely by everyone involved, including her office and workers. “Because this is a controversial election, we're being questioned a lot more, but that's OK, because we're not doing anything different than for any other election. We're running a tight ship, but that's what we do for all elections.”

Hall said she has hired 57 workers for Election Day plus office staff. The workers will man the nine precincts. Each group, pro and con, is allowed two observers per precinct and the Election Board must have their names submitted by a political party chairperson by 10 a.m. Aug. 13. The observers are allowed to watch the process, but are not allowed to interact with workers nor voters. They must remain at the precinct for a minimum of four hours.

There is no voting allowed at the Election Board office after one-stop closes Saturday, Aug. 15, unless it is a handicap transfer, but Hall said all precincts are handicap accessible.

She also reminds people to observe the no campaign buffer zone, which is 50 feet from the door of any precinct.

“I'm expecting a big turnout on Election Day because so many people like to wait and because this has generated so much interest,” Hall said.

If you have questions about voting, all 389-6812

This article originally appeared in the Clayton County Progress

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