SAVANNAH, GA – Even with just three seats up for grabs in tomorrow’s run off elections, the board of elections is partnering with state voting officials and local police to try to make the runoff run a little smoother than November’s general election.
Election officials do not believe there are any threats to voters during this runoff, but after violations to election law during the general election, board of elections leaders want to be prepared even if they are not anticipating a large voter turnout.
“It’s kind of sad to see a lot of angst and all of that about an election and not have the people show up at the polls,” says elections board chair Tom Mahoney III.
Tuesday will mark the final day voters in Savannah can choose their candidate for Mayor, Alderman At Large Post 2 and 2nd District Alderman. Campaigning at polling places during the general elections prompted an investigation by the Secretary of State’s office as Mahoney says things will be different during the runoff election.
“People have a first amendment right to campaign and be out there, they do not have a first amendment right to violate the on hundred and fifty foot rule.”
That’s where technology has come in to play with the board of elections launching a new precinct map showing polling places as well as the 150 foot boundary. It is a violation of state voting law to campaign for a candidate less than 150 feet from a voting office.
Mahoney says map will be at polling places for poll managers to enforce if any violations are taking place.
“We’re asking people to respect that law the patrols are going to be aware of that law, if you see anybody violating that law please inform us don’t start any kind of confrontation with those campaigning.”
Mahoney adds the Savannah Chatham Metro Police as well as Chatham County Sheriff’s office will have increased patrols around voting locations.
Even with all of this prep and security increases, Mahoney is not predicting a large turnout. The last mayoral runoff only reeled in about 28% of registered voters, that being back in 2011. However, there are still a handful of Savannah residents and community leaders like Aldersgate UMC Paster Ben Gosden who hope voters will come out motivated.
“This is a healthy election process, voices need to be heard and by tomorrow hopefully the heckling is going to be over and people are going to go to the polls and vote,” says Gosden.
Gosden says he hopes voters are not deterred by the past issue with voting in Savannah, such as precinct changes, and campaigning too close to polls. He believes tomorrow will begin the chapter of Savannah’s future for the next four years and he hopes voters will go out and be compelled to vote for their future.
Again you can find maps to your precincts as well as the boundaries for campaigning around them online at the Chatham County Board of Elections website.