Early voting begins today

ALBANY -- Local voters will be able to cast their votes downtown on a number of important races and issues Monday when the state's early voting period begins.

Early voting in the 2011 general election will begin today and end Nov. 4, with residents able to vote between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said.

During the early voting period, votes can be cast only at the government center at 222 Pine Ave.

The 2011 election cycle centers mostly on municipal elections locally since all of the political races to be decided involve the Albany City Commission.

However, all voters within the corporate city limits will also have an opportunity to vote on two other ballot items.

The first is the mayor's race, in which restaurant owner B.J. Fletcher, former commissioner Dorothy Hubbard and former state Rep. John White are running.

The second is a Sunday package sales referendum which, if approved, would allow retail stores to sell alcohol in the package on Sundays within the city limits.

Residents of wards 2, 4 and 6 will also have an opportunity to vote for their representative.

Political newcomers Cheryl Calhoun, Ivey Hines and Melissa Strother are running for the Ward 2 seat vacated by Hubbard; Ward 4 incumbant Roger Marietta is running for re-election against challenger Jason McCoy; and Ward 6 incumbant Tommie Postell is running against former Dougherty County Commissioner Victor Edwards and community organizer Kowana McKinney.

Ward I incumbant Jon Howard, who was up for re-election, will not appear on the ballot because no one qualified to run against him, essentially granting him another four-year term on the commission.

Only one issue will be decided countywide by voters at the polls, renewal of the 1 percent sales tax that supports the Dougherty County School System.

According to Nickerson, 95 people have asked that absentee ballots be mailed to them, which is down from a typical non-presidential or mid-term year.

As of Oct. 1, there were 40,027 active voters in the city of Albany, and 50,230 active voters countywide, Nickerson said.

To vote, registered voters must provide a photo ID. Nickerson said the ID can be either a driver's license, a Georgia ID card, an expired driver's license or a tribal or other official government photo ID.