A Different Kind of Election: Early Voting Underway in Special City/County Election



Three candidates are running for Trenton Police Commissioners, and the parks-and-rec seat is also contested. Besides the commission seats, voters will weigh in on two referendums Nov. 7.

Early voting started Monday for the combined Trenton City Commission election/Dade County referendum on Nov. 7. Poll officials said Tuesday that 20 to 25 voters had showed up so far for the combined two days. Dade Election Supervisor Lowanna Vaughn said turnout is expected to remain light. “Only about 400 people usually vote in city elections,” she said. That’s out of perhaps 1000 registered, she added.

How much will the countywide referendum augment those numbers? There’s no way to tell until after the votes are counted on Election Day. Poll workers do not have a method of keeping track of who is voting in the city election as opposed to the countywide referendum, said Ms. Vaughn.

This off-year election is a little different from most local elections. First, Trenton city voters are completing their ballots at the Dade County Administrative Building instead of at Trenton City Hall this year, a practice that will continue in future city elections. The city and county commissions have entered an intergovernmental agreement relieving City Hall workers of their election administration duties.

Second, only two Trenton City Commission seats are to be filled in this election cycle instead of the usual three. The police commissioner and parks-and-recreation/animal control commissioner seats are up for election, but the city commission quietly removed Trenton’s city clerk job from the voters’ choice, amending the city charter through state legislation after a closed-door decision and a stealthy slipping of a resolution requesting the legislation onto the commission’s November 2016 consent agenda.

No public announcement has been made to the voters of the change, and Mayor Alex Case says none will be. “We talked about it months and months before in executive session,” he said.

“Executive” session means closed to the public and press.

Incumbents Sandra Gray and Terry Powell are seeking reelection as Trenton police and parks-and-rec commissioners, respectively. Both are challenged, Powell by Kenny Jeffrey and Police Commissioner Gray by two competitors, one with some serious cop credentials. John Taylor, who retired from the Trenton Streets Department in June, wants to be city police commissioner, but so does Don Hicks, who has worked at the Dade Sheriff’s Office under multiple sheriffs and is current chief investigator there.


Poll workers Linda Breedlove and Randy Atkins (seated) and Dade election supervisor Lowanda Vaughn await voters. Turnout so far is unimpressive, they say.

Besides the two city commission seats, Trenton voters may also vote yes or no on a referendum on whether to allow hard liquor by the drink in city restaurants. A Trenton ordinance currently allows wine and beer to be served, and Trenton voters along with Dade voters countywide voted last November in a liquor referendum. But the city requires a mandate from its own voters, and the Dade Board of Elections had not set up a method last year by which ballots from Trenton could be isolated from those in the unincorporated county. So this election is a do-over for Trenton voters in that regard.

Finally, both city and countywide voters will have an opportunity to increase the county sales tax by a penny for the proposed new TSPLOST--Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the dollar. Under Georgia law, counties may now vote themselves in a new sales tax up to a penny on the dollar to pay for transportation projects such as roads, bridges and sidewalks. In Dade’s case, the main project would be a new north-Trenton exit off I-59, and both city and county have numerous smaller initiatives, including long-discussed sidewalks to the high and middle schools.

Like regular SPLOSTs, the TSPLOST would be in effect for a period of five years, would be collected and distributed by the state revenue department, which would retain a percentage of it, and would be shared 75/25 between county and city.

The TSPLOST is the only issue before county voters this election cycle.

Again, Election Day is Nov. 7, when county precinct voting places will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. City voting, as well as all early voting, is at the Dade County Administrative Building.

Early voting is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, through Nov. 3, with Saturday voting on Oct. 28, 8 a.m.-noon.


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