New, ac­tive vot­ers up in New­ton

Num­bers in­crease by 10K since Nov. 2006

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

In the two years since the last gen­eral elec­tion, nearly 10,000 res­i­dents have reg­is­tered to vote in New­ton County or be­come ac­tive vot­ers again, thanks in large part to the in­ter­est sur­round­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Mon­day was the last day for vot­ers to reg­is­ter in Ge­or­gia in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble to vote on Nov. 4.

As of Oct. 1 there were 52,735 ac­tive vot­ers in New­ton County. That fig­ures

does not in­clude any of the vot­ers who reg­is­tered in the last few days be­fore Mon­day when voter regis­tra­tion lines re­port­edly stretched out of the Board of Elec­tions of­fice on Usher Street.

Of that num­ber, 5,890 have al­ready cast their bal­lots as of Tues­day af­ter­noon at the BOE, which is of­fer­ing early vot­ing through­out the month of Oc­to­ber. The BOE has also re­ceived 1,183 ab­sen­tee bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to Donna Mor­ri­son, elec­tions di­rec­tor for the county.

Com­par­a­tively, there were only 43,418 ac­tive vot­ers in Novem­ber 2006, the last gen­eral elec­tion. The term ac­tive voter in­cludes all newly reg­is­tered vot­ers who have yet to cast a bal­lot. The num­ber of ac­tive vot­ers in the county has in­creased sharply since Novem­ber 2007 when there were only 45,443 vot­ers.

Since then, voter regis­tra­tion has in­creased sharply for both the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary in Fe­bru­ary and the gen­eral pri­mary in July. The big­gest jump in voter regis­tra­tion ac­tiv­ity hap­pened af­ter the gen­eral pri­mary when nearly 3,200 vot­ers reg­is­tered.

The Barack Obama/Joe Bi­den cam­paign in New­ton County has been cred­ited with reg­is­ter­ing many of those 3,200 vot­ers. Ac­cord­ing to Caro­line Adel­man, spokesper­son for the Obama cam­paign in Ge­or­gia, more than 5,000 vot­ers have been reg­is­tered by the cam­paign in both New­ton and Rock­dale coun­ties since the cam­paign first put in place ground staff in Au­gust.

“We’ve been work­ing hard,” said Adel­man, who de­nied that the state was no longer in play for Barack Obama af­ter the cam­paign made the de­ci­sion to scale down its TV ad­ver­tise­ments and shift staff per­son­nel to more com­pet­i­tive states in Septem­ber. “We’re still very much in play. It’s go­ing to be very close. We feel very good about things and we feel very good about our grass­roots ef­forts here.”

The Obama cam­paign had ear­lier stated that their strat­egy to turn Ge­or­gia blue counted in large part on reg­is­ter­ing the some 700,000 in­di­vid­u­als of vot­ing age in the state who were not yet reg­is­tered. A vast ma­jor­ity of those un­reg­is­tered vot­ers are black and/or un­der 30 -- two de­mo­graph­ics weighted heav­ily in Obama’s fa­vor.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ge­or­gia Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice, from the beginning of the year to Sept. 30, 406,379 Ge­or­gians had reg­is­tered to vote. While an im­pres­sive num­ber, it falls well short of the cam­paign’s goal and that’s as­sum­ing the large num­ber of new vot­ers will cast bal­lots in Obama’s fa­vor.

While Ge­or­gia might not be turn­ing blue this year, the dif­fer­ence of sev­eral thou­sand new vot­ers in New­ton County could be enough to turn the county pur­ple. There are three com­mis­sion seats up for grabs this fall as well as the county chair­man’s seat, the sher­iff’s of­fice and all of the county’s four state leg­is­la­ture seats. All po­si­tions are cur­rently held by Repub­li­cans.

Both pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns have been very ac­tive in the county ahead of the elec­tion. Frank Turner Jr., chair of the John McCain/ Sarah Palin cam­paign in New­ton County, said the cam­paign has fo­cused their ef­forts on phone bank­ing, es­pe­cially in swing states. The cam­paign has also dis­trib­uted signs through­out the county, is­sued voter guides, reg­is­tered vot­ers and built up a net­work of precinct cap­tains for can­vass­ing ef­forts later this month.

“We ob­vi­ously feel very good about our chances in New­ton County and in the state of Ge­or­gia,” Turner said. “We have ev­ery con­fi­dence that we’ll carry the county in 28 days.”

New­ton County voted heav­ily Repub­li­can in 2006 and has voted re­li­ably Repub­li­can for state and na­tional offices for much of the last few decades.

Turner said the New­ton County cam­paign saw a big uptick in the amount of voter in­ter­est and the num­ber of vol­un­teers af­ter the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion when McCain se­lected Gov. Palin as his run­ning mate.

“Our num­ber of vol­un­teers prob­a­bly dou­bled af­ter that week,” Turner said. “We’ve had a tremendous out­pour­ing of sup­port. My of­fice has been del­uged with calls as we sign up vol­un­teers.”

Elaine Davis-Nick­ens, a vol­un­teer with the Rock­dale and New­ton Obama cam­paign, said she has also ex­pe­ri­enced an out­pour­ing of voter sup­port for the Obama/Bi­den ticket.

Davis-Nick­ens said much of the cam­paign’s ac­tiv­ity in the past two months has sur­rounded voter regis­tra­tion drives and neigh­bor­hood can­vass­ing ef­forts. She said the cam­paign has also hosted de­bate­watch par­ties for the pres­i­den­tial and vice-pres­i­den­tial de­bates in­clud­ing one at the Hamp­ton Inn in Cony­ers last night.

“I think there’s been a tremendous amount of in­ter­est in the elec­tion pe­riod be­cause it’s his­tor­i­cal from many per­spec­tives,” she said. “This elec­tion has gal­va­nized peo­ple who’ve never ever voted be­fore. It’s phe­nom­e­nal. I’ve al­ways been a po­lit­i­cal junkie, but I haven’t seen this level of ex­cite­ment since [John] Kennedy.”

Davis-Nick­ens said she was very hope­ful Obama would carry both New­ton and Rock­dale coun­ties and that peo­ple should ex­pect to be sur­prised by the way the votes go down.

“I can’t take an­other eight years and I have a pretty se­cure pen­sion, but I see my pur­chas­ing power dwin­dling,” she said. “I think that peo­ple are vot­ing with their pock­et­books this year. That’s why I be­lieve this elec­tion is go­ing to cre­ate fun­da­men­tal change in the way peo­ple vote.”

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