Despite a new computer system, there were no hitches during the first day of early voting Monday for the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government.
Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said Bibb is the first county in Georgia to use the state’s new voting software. Because it’s so new, Watson said voting moved a little more slowly than usual as poll workers took a while to adjust.
“It took everybody some time to get used to it,” she said. “The state replaced an antiquated system. ... We’re the only county our size to use it, so everybody’s looking at us. It cut out some work for us in some areas, but in other aspects, it was more work.”
According to elections officials, 525 voters turned up Monday to cast their ballots.
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The general election is Sept. 17, with voters choosing among six mayoral candidates on the ballot. There also are multiple signs posted within the Board of Elections office to notify voters that Anthony Harris qualified as an official write-in candidate, even though his name doesn’t appear on the ballot.
There has been a little confusion about who is eligible to vote. Watson said any voter registered by Aug. 19 in the city or the county can vote in this election.
However, while virtually everyone will have two categories to vote for -- mayor and county commission district -- residents of Payne City will only be able to vote in the mayoral race, Watson said.
Because Payne City wasn’t part of the consolidation legislation, the residents who live in that city’s limits don’t belong to one of the nine commission districts.
It’s taken some time for other county residents to get used to the idea of voting in a mayoral race.
Polly Crawford, a nutritional consultant who lives in District 8 in the county, said she had to call the board offices to make sure she was eligible to vote.
“I’ve lived in the county for a number of years, and I just began to wonder if I was supposed to vote,” said Crawford, who was told she could vote. “I began to call some of my neighbors, and they were wondering the same thing. I was really surprised by the response -- ‘No, I did not know.’ ’’
Crawford said she is still evaluating which candidates she and her husband will support, but they will definitely vote.
“It’s our responsibility and obligation to vote,” she said.
Reginald Banks, 48, said he wanted to get voting over with. He cast ballots for C. Jack Ellis for mayor and James Timley for District 9 commissioner.
“The earlier you get in, the quicker you get out,” he said. “I really wasn’t for (consolidation), but as long as we can come together, as long as it’s for the people, this city can be a great city. ... Everybody needs to get out to vote.”
Donna Allen, 50, a District 5 resident, declined to say for whom she voted, but likes the convenience of early voting.
“I just wanted to go ahead and get it done,” said Allen, no relation to mayoral candidate Joe Allen. “I think it’s very important that we all get out and vote.”
Watson said some voters were confused as to which district they voted in. Some were confusing the congressional district on their voting cards (listed as “CONG”) with their commission district (listed as “COMM”).
Watson said sample ballots will be sent out Thursday to all of the libraries in the county, as well as the Publix grocery store at 195 Tom Hill Sr. Blvd., Harvey Supermarket, 1605 Shurling Drive, and all of the Krogers in the county. Information also is available at the board of elections website, www.co.bibb.ga.us/BOE/BOE.aspx.
Watson said absentee ballots were mailed out Monday. Early voting will continue weekdays through Sept. 13 from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the Board of Elections office, 2445 Pio Nono Ave. There will be one special Saturday voting day Sept. 7 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.