Early voting helps ease frustrations of election choices

By James Saxton
Times Correspondent

Henry County voters face more than a decision on who’ll be president. On most ballots, voters will cast choices on federal, state and county races.

With the approach of Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 8 – these races are nearing their conclusion. Voters need not wait until then, though. This week, early voting continues in Henry County at five locations in Hampton, Locust Grove, McDonough and Stockbridge.

Many are saying that early voting is helping them curb their election season anxiety.

“The past three presidential elections, I waited until election day and had to stand in line,” said Mimi Jenkins, 37, a homemaker in McDonough who had just voted last week. “Not this time. I’ve learned. For President Obama, I stood in line for over an hour, even though a toothache was making me feel real ugly. But you know, it meant a lot to me to vote then, and it means a lot now. This is an important election. I told my aunt, I don’t really like either (presidential) candidate, but, I voted anyway, and got it over with, because I am not going to let myself not vote.”

“You ever been to a county board (of commissioners) meeting?” asked Rochelle Jones, 67, a sewing enthusiast in the Ola area, of a neighbor standing with her in a short voting line last week outside the Henry County Elections Main Office in McDonough. “Those are some real smart men in those meetings, but let me tell you, some are willing to listen to what a voter has to say, and some aren’t. The moment I meet some elected official who feels a bit above the rest of us, I get determined to vote them out.

“Others are great about listening,” Jones said. “You have to go to some meetings, oh, you’ll find out quick who cares about you. Hillary or Donald? I’m not sure I care that much. The local elections are way more important to my family than that crazy national stuff.”

“I just walked right in, and nine minutes later I had a Georgia peach sticker,” said Monte McKenzie, a construction worker from the Swan Lake area of Stockbridge, flashing his colorful “I’m a Georgia voter” sticker in a grocery store. “Man, I got this whole voting thing over with. There was like no line over there in Stockbridge.”

Early voting runs now through Friday, Nov. 4. To see locations, hours, and which exact races will be on your ballot, go to www.co.henry.ga.us/registrars and along the left column, click on Sample Ballots.

Polls will be open Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at your local precinct, which also can be found on the county website, along with information about absentee ballots.

The following lists what most voters can expect to see on the ballot, with candidates listed alphabetically.

National races
All voters face two races for federal posts. For U.S. President, Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Gary Johnson (Libertarian) or Donald Trump (Republican); for U.S. Senator, Jim Barksdale (D), Allen Buckley (L) or incumbent Johnny Isakson (R).
Henry County voters live in any of three U.S. Representative districts. For the 3rd District – mostly southwest Henry and parts of Hampton and McDonough and Locust Grove – it’s Drew Ferguson (R) or Angela Pendley (D). The other two U.S, Congressional races feature unopposed candidates who may appear on ballots, including the 10th District – southeast Henry and much of McDonough – with incumbent Jody B. Hice (R); and the 13th District – mostly west Henry, Hampton, north Henry and most of Stockbridge – with incumbent David Scott (D).

State posts
The district lines for Georgia Legislature posts meander through Henry County, often irrespective of city limits, so the specific race a voter will face depends on one’s physical address.
Two Georgia Senate races in our county include District 17 – mostly southeast Henry with most of McDonough and Locust Grove – in which Bill Blackmon (D) faces incumbent Rick Jeffares (R). In District 10 – mostly northwest Henry with most of Stockbridge and Hampton – incumbent Emanuel Jones (D) is unopposed.
Georgia House races include three contested contests: District 73 – southwest Henry and Hampton – with Karen Mathiak (R), who defeated incumbent John Yates in a July primary runoff election, facing Rahim Talley (D); District 109 – east-central Henry and parts of southeast Stockbridge and north McDonough – with incumbent Dale Rutledge (R) running against his aunt by marriage, Jane Askew Rutledge (D); and District 111 – with parts of north central Henry, west Henry, south central Henry, and slivers of west Stockbridge, west McDonough and north Locust Grove – incumbent Brian Strickland (R) faces Darryl Payton (D).
Five other Georgia House races have unopposed candidates, including District 76 – mostly upper north Henry – with incumbent Sandra Scott (D); District 78 – west Stockbridge – incumbent Demetrius Douglas (D); District 90 – mostly northeast Henry and parts of east Stockbridge – incumbent Pam Stephenson (D); District 110 – southeast Henry and south McDonough – incumbent Andy Welch (R); and District 130 – south central Henry and south Locust Grove – incumbent David Knight (R).
All Georgia voters face a yes/no vote on four referenda:
1. Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.
2. Authorizes penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims' services.
3. Reforms and reestablishes the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provides for its composition, governance, and powers.
4. Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.

County races
All Henry County voters face choices in four races: After chair of the Henry County Board of Commissioners Tommy Smith opted not to seek re-election, his post will be filled by Carlotta Harrell (D) or June Wood(R) in what is probably the county’s highest profile contest. Others include, for sheriff, Joe Mack Ecker (D) or incumbent R. Keith McBrayer (R); for coroner, Tony Brown (D) or incumbent Donald Cleveland (R); and for superior court clerk, incumbent Barbara Harrison (R) or Sabriya Hill (D). Tax commissioner David M. Curry (R) is unopposed on the ballot.
Another county board of commissioners’ post is up for grabs as well. Commissioner Brian Preston of District 2 – including west Henry, Hampton and west McDonough – stepped down from his post in early July, leaving a spot for Jeff Robinson (R) or Dee Clemmons (D). Commissioner Bo Moss of District 1 – south Henry including south McDonough and Locust Grove – lost his seat to fellow Republican Johnny Wilson in a July primary runoff election. Wilson is unopposed in the general election.

In the Henry County District Attorney race, after Republican candidate Matt McCord dropped out of the race last month, Democrat Darius Pattillo was left as the presumptive winner. Because McCord’s withdrawal was less than a month before balloting, and the ballots had already been printed, ballots may include McCord’s name, but election officials last month said voters would be advised of McCord’s withdrawal and votes for him, including write-ins, will not count.