Early voting for primary election to start Monday

ALBANY, Ga. -- The public will get their first chance to cast ballots for 2010 elections Monday, as early and absentee voting will begin, elections officials say.

Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said that voting machines in her office downtown will open at 8:30 a.m. Monday and remain through 5 p.m. on July 16.

During that time, any registered voter in Dougherty County can cast a ballot for any reason as a part of early voting, while absentee ballots will be made available for those who will be out-of-town during the primary election or those voters who are 75 or older.

If someone hasn't registered to vote yet, the registration period will remain open for the primary election until June 21.

Beginning July 12, a second voting location will open at the Candy Room downtown adjacent to the Flint RiverQuarium. That location will remain open from 8:30 - 5 p.m. until July 16, Nickerson said.

While this year isn't a presidential election year, it does have some significant races on both the state and local level.

The two District 6 races will both be decided by the primary elections, Nickerson said.

For District 6 County Commission, longtime commissioner Jack Stone is being challenged by local businessman and chairman of the Dougherty County Taxpayer's Association Richard Thomas. Since both are running as Democrats and no Republicans have stepped forward to run in that race, whoever gets the most votes in the primary election will win that seat.

The District 6 School Board race will be decided the same way. Two newcomers to the school system are trying to earn a seat at the table that is currently held by Michael Windom, who has decided not to seek re-election.

Dean Phinazee and Darrell Ealum, both Democrats, will square off in the primary to see who will replace Windom.

The District 2 School Board race will decide who will ultimately run against political newcomer Donnie Smith, who is running uncontested in the primary as a Republican.

The incumbent in that race, Milton "June Bug" Griffin, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Sherrell Byrd after another candidate, Lynda Weaver, withdrew from the race Friday.

The winner of that race will take on Smith in the general election.

Smith's husband, Lonnie Smith, is also running for political office and challenging Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes. Neither candidate has opposition in their own parties and will be uncontested heading into the July 20 primary.

Ewell Lyle is running uncontested in a county commission race to replace retiring commissioner Chuck Lingle and Carol Tharin is set to succeed Emily Jean McAfee on the school board after she decided to step down, as Tharin too is running with no opposition.

County Commission Chairman Jeff "Bodine" Sinyard will retain that post as no opposition has challenged him in either the primary or general elections.

On the state level, the gubernatorial race is likely to head up the ballot as a horde of candidates are pitted against each other in primary battles within each party.

The front runners still appear to be former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes and former State Insurance Commissioner and Republican John Oxendine, although former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handle has come on strong amid ongoing ethics allegations against Oxendine.

The state's first Attorney General's election in decades has a local connection as former Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges is pitted against State Representative Rob Teilhet in the Democratic primary.

In the Republican Primary, former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Max Wood will square off against Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens.

The winners of each primary will go head-to-head in the general election in November.

State Schools' Superintendent Kathy Cox has withdrawn her re-election bid, although election officials say that her name will still be on the ballot during early and absentee voting.

Nickerson said that the ballots for the early voting period had already been printed when Cox announced that she would be withdrawing from the race. Votes cast for Cox will not be counted and voting machines on primary day should have the correct ballot -- sans Cox -- on primary day July 20.