Thanks to the primary election getting moved to May 20, early voting starts early this year — Monday, in fact.
The early start is a result of a federal judge’s order requiring Georgia to provide 45 days between the primaries and any runoffs. That means primary elections usually held in July to decide party candidates for the November general election are now in May.
It also means it’s too late to register to vote in the primaries, according to Bryan County Voting Registrar Warren Miller, though people can still sign up to vote in the November general election.
The county’s nearly 22,000 registered voters, on the other hand, have until May 16 to vote ahead of Primary Election Day at either of Bryan County’s two polling places for early voting — the voter registration office at the Courthouse in Pembroke or the County Administrative Complex in South Bryan. Both offices will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Miller.
Those locations will also be open for one day of Saturday voting — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10.
In addition, Miller urged registered voters to go to the “My Voter Page” at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, http://mvp.sos.state.ga.us/, to view sample ballots, of which there are more than 20 for the primary election depending on precinct and party.
Voters can also obtain an application for an absentee ballot on the page.
One more thing worth noting: Voters who haven’t cast a ballot in a primary election before may be surprised to be asked which primary they want to vote in, the Democratic or Republican.
That’s because the primaries are conducted by the state on behalf of the two parties, who “are nominating the persons they want to run in the general election in November,” Miller said. “That’s why you’ve got a Democratic ballot and a Republican ballot.”
Voters can vote in one or the other primary, but not both. And in Georgia, registered members of a political party can vote in the other party’s primary.
Whatever the case, there’s a crowded field at the state and federal level, and plenty of candidates for voters to choose from in both primaries.
And there are several of local interest at the federal and state level, including contests for the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate; Georgia’s governorship and a couple of seats in the House and Senate seats in the Georgia General Assembly.
But first, there are also a handful of local school board and county commission races, though only one is being contested — incumbent District 5 Commissioner Jimmy Henderson is being challenged by Rick Gardner, who held the District 5 seat four years ago.
Also up for re-election and running unopposed are District 4 Commissioner Carter Infinger and District 2 Commissioner Wade Price.
Board of Education Chairman Eddie Warren, District 4 member Marianne Smith and District 5 member David Schwartz are also unopposed.
The most watched race in Bryan County could be the one to pick a successor to longtime U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie.
Among the Republicans looking to succeed Kingston are Pooler pharmacist and current state Sen. Buddy Carter; ex U.S. Department of Agriculture official Darwin Carter of Waycross, who had ties to the administration of former President Ronald Reagan; former state senator Jeff Chapman of Brunswick; Bob Johnson of Savannah, a former Army Ranger and a surgeon; and ex-congressional aide and businessman John McCallum of St. Simon’s Island.
Democrats include Richmond Hill Realtor and businesswoman Amy Tavio, who is running against two candidates from Savannah: Brian Reese, a UPS manager and minister; and Marc Smith, a retired police officer, former teacher and a Navy veteran.
The other federal race is that to replace Chambliss, who spent two terms as senator after a long career in the House that began in 1994.
In addition to Kingston, who has been in the House since 1992, there are a number of high-profile Republicans seeking Chambliss’ seat.
Among them are current U.S. congressmen Phil Broun and Phil Gingrey and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. Also running as Republicans are attorney Art Gardner; minister Derrick Grayson, a Navy veteran; and businessman David Perdue, a cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Democrats in the hunt for Chambliss’ seat are Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Samm Nunn; former state Sen. Steen Miles, a retired TV news reporter; Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki, a psychiatrist; and retired Army NCO and firefighter Todd Robinson.
Running as a Libertarian is former Flowery Branch councilwoman Amanda Swafford, a paralegal who won’t be on either ballot.
State house, senate
There are four races for the General Assembly, which will impact Bryan County.
Those include the race for the District 1 Senate seat being vacated by Buddy Carter in his bid for the U.S. House. Running unopposed is state Rep. Ben Watson, a current member of the Georgia House.
Running for Watson’s District 166 seat — which includes a portion of South Bryan along the coast — are Jesse Petrea and Martin Sullvan.
Petrea is a CEO, vice president and co-owner of Altrus Assistant Living and officer and co-owner of Coastal Home Care Inc.
Sullian is an insurance salesman with Sapelo Insurance of Savannah and has worked as a senior policy advisor to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
No Democrats filed for District 166.
Running unopposed for his long-held District 164 seat is Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens, a Garden City pharmacist whose district includes much of South Bryan.
Also unopposed is Republican State Rep. Jan Tankersly of Bulloch County. Her district, District 160, includes North Bryan.
The biggest election in state circles is that for governor. Incumbent Nathan Deal, a Republican, is seeking a second term but is facing a challenge within his own party from State School Superintendent John Barge, and Dalton Mayor David Pennington, a businessman.
Democrat Jason Carter, an attorney, state senator and grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, is running unopposed in his primary in a bid for governor.
Libertarian Andrew Hunt will be on the ballot in November.
Other state constitutional offices up for grabs in 2014 include that of lieutenant governor; secretary of state; attorney general, state agricultural commissioner; state insurance commissioner, state labor commissioner and state school superintendent. With few exceptions, most candidates for these posts are running unopposed.
The big exception is the race to replace Barge as state superintendent of schools. Both parties are offering several candidates in those races.