A small minority of voters might determine the outcome of Tuesday’s Georgia House special elections, judging from the low turnout totals recorded in Clarke and Oconee counties through the end of early voting Friday.
Every voter in both counties is eligible to vote Tuesday. Voters will not only choose their candidates for two open seats in the Georgia House of Representatives, but also whether to impose a countywide transportation sales tax in Athens-Clarke County, and city council elections in Oconee County’s Watkinsville and in Clarke County’s Winterville.
In one state House race, District 117, Republican Houston Gaines and Democrat Deborah Gonzalez are vying to replace former Rep. Regina Quick.
Quick resigned in August after Gov. Nathan Deal tapped the Athens lawyer to fill a vacant judgeship in the Western Judicial Circuit.
In the 119th District, Democrat Johnathan Wallace, hopes to turn back three Republican candidates – Steven Strickland, Marcus Wiedower and Tom Lord.
Chuck Williams, R-Watkinsville, resigned from that seat to become director of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
In Clarke County, 3,729 people took the opportunity to vote early instead of going to a polling place Tuesday. That’s under 6 percent of those eligible, said Charlotte Sosebee, Athens-Clarke County director of elections.
Even fewer had cast ballots in Oconee County, just 2,165, according to election officials there.
Low numbers also had voted by the end of the day Friday in Barrow and Jackson counties. A small number of people in those two counties are in House District 117, along with much larger numbers of voters in Clarke and Oconee counties. District 119 is split between Clarke and Oconee counties.
Sosebee expects higher numbers Tuesday, but is not anticipating a large turnout.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The House races aren’t the only ones on the ballot.
Not all Clarke voters can vote in the special House elections as there is no race for state Rep. Spencer Frye’s seat in House District 118. But all Clarke County voters are eligible to vote in a referendum on whether the county can levy a 1 percent “transportation special local option sales tax.” If voters approve, shoppers would soon begin paying an extra 1 percent in sales tax to fund a list of transportation-related projects.
Winterville voters will choose city council members in two contested races.
All Oconee County voters are also eligible to vote Tuesday, either in the House 117 election or the House 119 election.
The Oconee County seat, Watkinsville, also has one contested city council seat on the ballot.
If no candidate emerges with a majority in the District 117 race, a runoff would be scheduled for Dec. 5.
Sosebee reminded voters who usually cast ballots at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School their polling place has been changed to Whitehead Road Elementary.
Oglethorpe Elementary was demolished earlier this year and construction is now underway on a new school.
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An earlier version of this article incorrectly switched the candidates running in District 117 and District 119.