ALBANY — Outside the polling precinct at Porterfield Methodist Church, the blue pieces of tape marking off 6-foot intervals to promote social distancing looked to be unnecessary as voters sporadically trickled in by ones and twos on Tuesday afternoon with no waiting time.

At the nearby Merry Acres Middle School precinct, the runoff election between incumbent Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher and challenger Vilnis Gaines was even less active, with a total of 24 showing up to cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

At 1:20 p.m., there had been a total of 180 at the Porterfield precinct.

“It’s slow,” said Gina Moorehead, manager at the Merry Acres precinct. “We didn’t have a rush early. We’ve had a slow day. We need to encourage people to get out and vote.”

The scene was more exciting outside on Dawson Road, where volunteers for Gaines waved at motorists and held up campaign signs. A short distance away, Ezekiel Holley held up a “Black Voters Matter” sign.

“I’m trying to encourage people to vote,” said Holley, president of the Terrell County Branch of the NAACP. “We’ve been fighting for voting rights since the 1960s. In the last (Dawson) election, we didn’t get out but about 16 percent.”

Turnout for runoff contests is often dismal, as evidenced by the 6.9 percent turnout for a special election in July for a Dougherty County School Board election. Turnout in Ward III for the Nov. 2 general election was only 13.28 percent.

“It’s an ongoing process of voter registration, voter education and get-out-the-vote,” Holley said of getting people to the polls. “That’s what the NAACP motto is.”

At the Porterfield precinct, Bert James said he exercises the right to vote in every election he can.

“Because if I didn’t, my father would come up from the grave and beat me,” he said. “(Seriously), because it’s my responsibility.”

James, a former city commissioner himself, said he was casting a ballot on Tuesday “to keep some balance on the commission.”

Retired U.S. Army veteran Charlie Cole Jr. also said he felt it was important to make his voice heard.

“It’s my duty and obligation to vote, and I always did it, being a veteran,” he said.

Some of the issues Cole said he considered important in the race were crime and economic development to provide more jobs for city residents.

“I looked at the candidates,” he said. “Everybody is talking about change. I’m looking at change, what they can do, what they’ve done.”

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