Election officials ready for voters

About a quarter of Richmond County’s registered voters are expected to turn out today to decide whether Augusta stores can sell alcohol on Sundays or whether the school board will continue to collect an extra penny of sales tax to fund various projects.


Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said she expects about 25 percent of Richmond County’s 101,000 registered voters to show up at polls.

The turnout for early voting, which ended Friday, was fairly light, she said. Nearly 2,500 voters cast ballots at early-voting locations. About 1,900 early voters cast ballots in neighboring Columbia County, according to elections officials there.

“Elections of this type typically do not have a large turnout,” Bailey said.

Even so, a full complement of workers will be standing by at the county’s 50 polling stations, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On Monday afternoon, a steady stream of poll managers paraded into the Board of Elections warehouse on Lumpkin Road to pick up supplies. They had to sign for possession of documents and equipment that can’t be left overnight in polling places, including the yellow cards that will allow voters to record their choices electronically, Assistant Director Travis Doss said.

After they checked in, poll managers left with a blue canvas bag loaded with supplies and a dark-gray suitcase that contained the machine that collects votes. Doss said most poll managers were supposed to have their equipment by 5 p.m., but there are always a few stragglers.

“We leave after the last person has picked up,” he said.

Walton McKenney, the poll manager at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, was almost on the stragglers’ list. He came in at about 4 p.m. to pick up equipment.

“I liked to have forgot about this,” said McKenney, who has been poll manager for about 10 years.

McKenney said he was driving on Washington Road when he was suddenly struck by the task left undone.

“I was on my way home and I said, ‘Lord, have mercy, I’ve got to go pick up,’” he said.

Doss said voters need to seek out polling locations for their precincts. Those who have questions should check the Board of Elections Web site or call the office at (706) 821-2340 before they come to polls, he said.



Up for grabs today: 437

Already won: 353 (Mitt Romney, 203; Rick Santorum, 92; Newt Gingrich, 33; Ron Paul, 25)

Needed for the nomination: 1,144


OHIO, OHIO, OHIO: It’s the race to watch. Political junkies get all misty-eyed over this Rust Belt swing state – no Republican nominee has ever become president without winning Ohio in the general election. That makes it a powerful proving ground. The big issue there is the economy, including President Obama’s bailout of the auto industry.


NEWT’S LAST STAND OR GINGRICH RISES AGAIN? Get out the hook for Newt Gingrich if he loses in Georgia, the state he represented in the U.S. House for two decades. He hopes to win the state decisively and pick up enough other delegates to relaunch his up-and-down campaign. He has endorsements from Gov. Nathan Deal and Herman Cain, a fellow Georgian. He’s got a new pitch, claiming he can bring the cost of gas down to $2.50 per gallon. Georgia boasts the day’s biggest cache of delegates: 76.



In addition to Georgia, two other Bible Belt states, Tennessee and Oklahoma, are central to Newt Gingrich’s hopes of revival. Rick Santorum insists he’ll be the big story in both, though.

In Tennessee, a confident-sounding Santorum is trying to walk in the footsteps of another outspoken Christian conservative, Mike Huckabee, who won there four years ago. Mitt Romney boasts the support of popular Gov. Bill Haslam, while Gingrich is getting plugs from former senator, movie actor and Law & Order star Fred Thompson. At stake are 55 delegates.

Oklahoma, dotted with drilling rigs and cattle ranches, straddles the South and the Great Plains and sits squarely among the reddest of the red states. Santorum tagged it “ground zero of the conservative movement,” and his anti-abortion, pro-family values message attracts enthusiastic crowds. The other three hopefuls also have dropped in. It offers 40 delegates.



The anti-war, libertarian-leaning, unorthodox Republican Ron Paul hasn’t won a single state. Super Tuesday could change that.

Paul is focusing on the three caucus states – Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska – where a big turnout by his cadre of enthusiastic followers would have the most impact. Even if he doesn’t score a win, he’s likely to pick up delegates to help power him into this summer’s Republican convention with enough clout to promote his ideas.

But his rivals won’t make it easy.

Idaho’s big Mormon population – about a fourth of its voters – bodes well for Romney, who’s a Mormon. Santorum is hoping to win in North Dakota, and Romney’s trying, too.

Paul, a Texas congressman, might be the only one to journey to Alaska, however; he was in the state Sunday. Meanwhile, Alaska’s most famous Republican, Sarah Palin, has been saying nice things about Gingrich.

Together, the three caucuses pay out 84 delegates (Idaho, 32; North Dakota, 28; Alaska, 24).



Gingrich would love to compete in this Southern state, but he’s not. Only Romney and Paul landed spots on the ballot, by having early organizations strong enough to collect the required 10,000 signatures.

That leaves Virginia mostly a curiosity. What kind of showing can Paul muster one-on-one vs. Romney? The fight is over 46 delegates.



There’s little drama in the Northeastern races. Romney is virtually unopposed in Massachusetts, where he was governor slightly more than five years ago. It has 38 delegates. He’s expected to win neighboring Vermont, too, although Santorum seeks to peel away some of its 17 delegates.



Caucuses and primaries in Kansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana fill out the busiest month of the nomination season. Three territories – American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico – also get their say in March.

– Associated Press