Early voting points to low turnout in House District 146 runoff

WARNER ROBINS -- It’s looking like, once again, a small number of people may decide who will represent Houston County in the General Assembly.

In the opening week of early voting in the runoff for the House District 146 seat, 1,129 people had voted when the polls closed Friday. While the number is difficult to compare to the first election when the overall turnout was just 11.6 percent, it still points to a low turnout.

In that July 14 election, the first week of early voting was held only at the Board of Elections office in Perry. In that election, 514 people voted in the first week of early voting, and a total of 1,932 people voted early in the first election.

This week, voting was held at both the Board of Elections office and at Central Georgia Technical College. Also in the first election, early voting continued for three weeks but just two weeks in the runoff.

Early voting continues through Aug. 7 in the runoff election to be held Aug. 11.

Businessmen Shaw Blackmon and Larry Walker III, both Republicans, hope to succeed Larry O’Neal, who stepped down earlier this year to take a judgeship. Blackmon took 1,735 votes in the July 14 election, or 43.8 percent, to Walker’s 1,397 votes, or 35.3 percent. Kelly Burke received 828 votes, or 20.9 percent, knocking him out of the runoff.

A year ago political newcomer Heath Clark pulled off a big upset when he beat incumbent Willie Talton for the House District 147 seat. That district covers part of north Houston County where District 146 covers south Warner Robins and Perry. With a 16-percent turnout, Clark won with just 1,544 votes in a district with a population of 54,000, according to the 2010 census. District 146 had a population of 67,000 in 2010.

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said he is concerned by the low turnouts and urged people in District 146 to get to the polls. Stalnaker said he has voted in every election he was eligible to vote in from the time he reached voting age.

“For people to not exercise their duty to vote is bothersome to me,” he said. “I think it’s a sad state when we can’t get large turnouts.”

Early voting is at the Board of Elections office at the old courthouse, 801 Main St. in Perry and Central Georgia Technical College, Building G, at 80 Cohen Walker Drive in Warner Robins. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.

To determine voter eligibility, go to www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.