Voters are split over ballots in primaries

Georgia voters going to polls this month can choose a slate of Republicans or a slate of Democrats, but they can't do both, and the limitations of a split ballot primary is raising questions, said Lynn Bailey, executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.

"I would say 1 in 20 people come in asking to look at both ballots," she said Thursday. "The rule is in the primaries voters can only vote for one party or the other."

This year's state Senate District 22 race and Congressional District 10 race have caused the most controversy, Mrs. Bailey said. Incumbent Ed Tarver is facing a challenge from former Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams in the state Senate race. Both are Democrats.

Likewise, an interesting congressional race between U.S. Rep. Paul Broun and state Rep. Barry Fleming is featured on the Republican ballot. Democrats only have one choice -- Bobby Saxon.

About 25 percent of the 1,800 people who voted so far this primary season have been torn by the partisan ballots, she said.

"It seems to be a struggle for them to make the choice on which ballot to choose, because of these races," she said. "We've got some good races, and some of them want to vote both ways."

She also said some voters were uncertain if they could vote in the Senate race and were unsure of the district boundaries.

Jonathan Taylor, 26, said a combined ballot would have been nice when he voted Wednesday. Though he is a staunch Republican, he said, he wanted to cast his vote for Richmond County tax commissioner.

"I really wanted to vote for Tommy Boyles, but he wasn't on my ballot," he said.

Frances Lamar, 56, said Board of Elections attendants should inform people that their split ballots might keep them from voting in certain races.

"I suspect it's not legal to change the way they do the primaries, but they should tell people beforehand," she said.

Early voting continues today at select locations. The traditional vote takes place statewide Tuesday.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

DEMOCRATS

SENATE DISTRICT 22

NAME: Ed Tarver (incumbent)
AGE: 48
OCCUPATION: Attorney with Augusta Law Firm of Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley
EDUCATION: Graduate of Glenn Hills High School; bachelor's degree from Augusta State University; J.D. from University of Georgia School of Law
POLITICAL BACKGROUND: 2005, won special election to complete the unexpired term of former Sen. Charles Walker

NAME: Marion Williams
AGE: 60
OCCUPATION: Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church
EDUCATION: Completed high school; attended seminary
POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Eight years on the Augusta Commission

REPUBLICANS

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 10

NAME: Paul Broun (incumbent)
AGE: 62
OCCUPATION: Family doctor
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree from University of Georgia; medical degree from Medical College of Georgia
POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Won special election (in a runoff) to complete the unexpired term of the late Charlie Norwood in July 2007

NAME: Barry Fleming
AGE: 43
OCCUPATION: Partner in law firm of Fulcher Hagler in Augusta
EDUCATION: Bachelor's and law degrees from University of Georgia
POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Columbia County Board of Commissioners; Georgia House of Representatives (elected majority whip)