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Posted: July 1, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Early voting begins for Aug. 10 runoff

Liquor by the drink to be discussed at Monday BOC work session

Early voting has started for the Aug. 10 runoff election and will last until Friday at 5 p.m. Registered voters can vote at the Board of Elections located on the first floor of the Newton County Administration Building at 1113 Usher St.

Election officials and candidates agree the runoff is just as important as the primary election, yet runoff voter participation is generally much lower. According to the Board of Elections, in 2004, 30.8 percent of registered voters voted in the primary, but only 13.3 percent voted in the runoff.

This year 19.9 percent, or 12,089 of the county's 60,721 registered voters, participated in the July 20 Primary.

Several local and state party-specific races were not decided July 20. Republican races include: governor, Nathan Deal versus Karen Handel; attorney general, Sam Olens versus Preston Smith; insurance commissioner, Ralph Hudgens versus Maria Sheffield; public service commission District 2, John Douglas versus Tim Echols; U.S. representative District 7, Jody Hice versus Rob Woodall; state senate District 17, Todd Hilton versus Rick Jeffares; state representative District 110, Lee Spahos versus Andrew Welch III.

In addition, the outcome of the District 1 Board of Education race between Republicans Jeff Meadors and Dale Thompson will decide the election, as no Democrats ran for the seat.

Democratic races include secretary of state, Gail Buckner versus Georganna Sinkfield; state representative 95, incumbent Toney Collins versus Pam Dickerson; and District 3 Board of Education, Shakila Henderson-Baker versus James Johnson Jr.

Even if voters did not vote in the primary, they can still vote in the Aug. 10 runoff, as long as they were registered to vote prior to June 21. These voters can choose to vote in either party. If a voter voted in the July 20 Primary, he must vote for that same party in the runoff.

In related election news, Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison said Newton County’s participation in the pilot bar code scanner program was a success for the four precincts that used them – Beaverdam, Buck Creek, Livingston and Town.

According to a July 14 press release from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, the scanners are designed to create a more efficient and accurate check-in process for voters. If a voter’s driver’s license number is already recorded in the poll book, poll workers will scan the bar code on the back of the voter’s Georgia driver’s license or state identification card to immediately find the voter in the poll book and check her in to vote. This process will eliminate the need to manually look up every voter in the poll book.

Morrison said she hopes the state will provide scanners for every precinct by the Nov. 2 General Election. Voters can find their polling place and view sample ballots at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website at sos.georgia.gov/MVP/Login.aspx.

In other election news:

• There appeared to have been some confusion about the Election Day alcohol laws. The QuikTrip in Covington had signs up saying it could not sell alcohol during the Primary, and new Covington Senior Planner Scott Gaither said Applebee’s called and asked him if it could sell alcohol. However, no section of Covington’s alcohol ordinance restricts the sale of alcohol on election days, although other cities and counties do have Election Day restrictions. The county allows limited retail sales of beer and wine.

• However, the Newton County Board of Commissioners will have a work session to discuss its current alcohol ordinance at 7 p.m., Monday at the Historic Courthouse. The board previously discussed the topic at its February retreat held at Burge Plantation.

Many in the business community have been pushing for beer, wine and liquor by the drink sales for years, and as far as county officials could remember the last public referendum was held in 1998.

Liquor by the drink refers to the ability for businesses to sell single drinks for consumption on the premises, like a restaurant or bar, as opposed to a package store. While beer and wine sales can be approved by a county board of commissioners at any time, liquor by the drink sales have to be approved by a majority of public voters.

At its normally scheduled Tuesday meeting, the BOC has an agenda item for a "Resolution to Call for Referendum for Alcoholic Beverage License for Sale by the Drink."

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