Turnout light so far in advance voting

Early voter turnout for July 22 runoffs has been slow so far but may pick up after voters return from July 4 vacations, say election officials.

“I hope to see things pick up a little next week, but we’ll see. I do expect things to be very light across the board,” Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said.

Only 222 people, just .2 percent of registered voters, have voted in the first three days of advance voting at Augusta Municipal Building, with Democratic ballots outnumbering Republican ballots 173 to 49, according to the elections office.

On the Republican ballot are a U.S. Senate primary runoff between Jack Kingston and David Perdue and a state superintendent primary runoff between Mike Buck and Richard Woods. On the Democratic ballot are a state superintendent runoff between Valarie Wilson and Alisha Thomas Morgan and a state senate District 22 runoff between former Richmond County Solicitor General Harold Jones and Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson.

Voters who live in Augusta Commission District 6 will decide a runoff between Ben Hasan and Bob Finnegan. The nonpartisan commission race appears on both ballots, and is the only election on a nonpartisan ballot if sixth district voters select it. Voters who selected one of the partisan ballots May 20 can’t change parties in the runoff.

Advance voting continues today but not Friday, as city government is closed for July 4. Voting continues Monday through July 11 on the ground floor of Augusta Municipal Building, 530 Greene St.

Early voting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at three additional locations, Diamond Lakes Regional Park, Henry Brigham Community Center and Warren Road Community Center, the week of July 14 through July 18.

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TAKE A GOVERNMENT SURVEY

The city is seeking feedback about city services, taxes and other priorities in an online or telephone survey.

The 20-question survey, available now at www.augustaga.gov/augustasurvey or by phone at (706) 821-1008 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., will assist city leaders and staff “in setting goals and objectives for the city and moving Augusta forward,” said interim City Administrator Tameka Allen in a news release.

After touching on residents’ priorities for the government, such as law enforcement, fire protection, parks and recreation, the arts, transportation and funding nonprofit agencies, the survey poses a question about what would be a significant change to city government.

“Do you believe the organizational structure of Augusta’s government should be amended to make the city administrator and city attorney direct reports to the mayor’s office in order to create a more centralized form of government?”

The change would require amending the city’s consolidation act and would put the attorney and administrator at the mayor’s disposal, removing them from the demands of the 10-member commission, although Mayor Deke Copenhaver has enjoyed a close relationship with both former administrator Fred Russell, who was fired in December, and General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie.

Commissioners, Copenhaver and mayor-elect Hardie Davis authorized adding questions regarding the mayor’s authority at a retreat last week, although Commissioner Marion Williams said Wednesday he was surprised to see the question worded in that way, with a new mayor taking office in January.

“It’s going to be interesting the first of the year,” Williams said.

– From staff reports

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