A spot check of several polls in Reporter Newspapers communities indicates that turnout in the May 20 primary and special election is very small.

“Slow,” is the single word Ruby Johnson, poll manager at the Peachtree Charter Middle School voting place in Dunwoody, needed to describe the election.

A total of 81 voters had cast ballots at her precinct by midday, she said. About 2,800 voters are registered in the precinct.

Assistant poll managers Tiffany Ray, left, and Robert Harvey check voter credentials during the May 20 primary and special election in Brookhaven.
Assistant poll managers Tiffany Ray, left, and Robert Harvey check voter credentials during the May 20 primary and special election in Brookhaven.

DeKalb County voters took part in a eight-candidate, nonpartisan election to choose a successor to Sheriff Tom Brown, who resigned to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In Dunwoody and Brookhaven, sitting members of the Legislature faced challenges from within their own parties. In the Republican primary, Richard E. “Dick” Anderson ran against incumbent Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody). The winner would face the winner of the Democratic primary race between Tamara Y. Johnson and Benedict I. Truman II.

Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) squared off in the primary with James Bradley “Brad” Goodchild in District 79. In District 80, incumbent Rep. Michael J. “Mike” Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) faced challenger Catherine Bernard.

Buckhead voters were to choose among four candidates in the Republican Primary seeking to follow former Rep. Ed Lindsey into the state House representing District 54. And Buckhead and Sandy Springs voters had new choices for the Fulton County Commission after a redistricting of the areas represented by the commissioners.

Dunwoody voter Rick Abernethy said he showed up to vote because it was his duty. “If you’ve got an opinion, you’ve got to vote,” he said.

Voter Rick Abernethy
Voter Rick Abernethy

But it appeared that many others disagreed.

At the polling place at the Buckhead Library, 151 voters out of the about 3,050 registered had cast ballots by mid-afternoon. At Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, Poll Manager John Packman said that of 1,400 voters registered in the precinct, 190 had cast votes by about 3:30 p.m.  “There’s usually not a great turnout for primaries,” Packman said, “but there’s always an end-of-day rush.”

In Brookhaven, at the polling place at the Cross and Crown Lutheran Church on Chamblee Dunwoody Road, poll manager Kaye Harvey said that having 130 voters cast ballots by lunchtime was “extremely low for here.”

But she couldn’t tell whether the turnout reflected a general lack of voting or confusion on the part of voters whose voting place had been moved from Montgomery Elementary. Because of construction at the school, she said, the 3,800 voters registered in the precinct were split into two groups and told to cast their ballots May 20 at the church or nearby Kittredge Magnet School.

“It’s been low,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the move.”

Marian Lynch, poll manager at Hammond Park in Sandy Springs, said turnout seemed “pretty steady for a primary. Of course, it’s not as steady as we’d like it,” she said.

She said that as of 1:30 p.m., about 250 voters had cast ballots in a precinct of 5,200.

Lynch said some residents cast their ballots during the early voting period, which may have reduced the numbers at the polls on May 20. “But it’s not over yet,” she said.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.