There was no mistaking there was an election going on in Dunwoody on Nov. 8. Campaign signs promoted candidates along the city’s main streets and supporters gathered at major intersections to wave to passing drivers.
The hoopla seems to have worked. Dunwoody voters turned out in relatively large numbers to cast ballots in the mayor, city council and parks bond elections, among other items, according to checks of several precincts.
But the numbers were low in Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Buckhead, where voters were deciding on whether to allow Sunday sales of packaged alcoholic beverages and whether to extend the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dedicated to education.
At the Dunwoody Library, poll manager Noel Young said about half of the precinct’s 2,220 registered voters had already voted by 2 p.m.
“It’s been outstanding,” Young said. “This is the highest [turnout] I’ve ever seen.”
Young said he believes the elections for mayor and city council as well as the parks bond referendum brought people out to vote.
“I think the issues we hear are the city of Dunwoody issues that people seem to have some emotion about,” he said.
Su Ellis, poll manager at the Mt. Vernon West precinct, said turnout has been steady throughout the day.
“We’ve been happy with the turnout, we’ve got about 20 percent,” Ellis said. “It’s been pretty much what we expected.”
Jennifer Baxter said she came out to vote primarily for the parks bond referendum. “The biggest thing was the parks referendum,” Baxter said. “I live on the south side of Dunwoody and I think purchasing land would help it grow more and would help property values.”
Cindra Siah said she came to cast her vote against the parks bonds. “They want to spend so much money for parks,” Siah said. “We love the parks, but we don’t want to have too much debt.”
David Saca said he comes out to vote in every election. “The other reason is to allow alcohol sales on Sunday. We all want that,” Saca said.
In Brookhaven, there is only one item on the ballot. Voters will decide whether or not to renew SPLOST, the one-cent sales tax to fund capital improvements for DeKalb County Schools.
Kaye Harvey, the poll manager at the Montgomery Elementary School precinct, said she expects about 20 percent of voters will turnout for the election. “It’s low for this precinct, but better than it would be for most precincts,” Harvey said. “This is an incredible election area because people are really active. They’re dedicated to voting.”
At the polling place in the Hammond Park community center, poll manager Fred DeVaughn called turnout “pitiful.” About 119 voters from among the 2,025 registered in the precinct had cast votes by 2 p.m. In the most recent election, for Sandy Springs City Council, more than 500 voters cast ballots, he said.
Acrosss the park, at the Hammond Park Gym, which houses a separate polling place, 173 voters of the about 2,800 registered voters in the precinct had cast ballots by early afternoon. Poll manager Marian Lynch said she thought the turnout was “pretty good.”
“We didn’t expect a big turnout,” she said. “It’s small, but we expected it to be small. It’s been pretty steady all day.”
Some said the low turnout meant small numbers of voters could decide the elections. Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling, a proponent of the Sunday Sales initiative, took to his Facebook page to rally voters to the polls. “Turn out is extremely low,” Sterling’s page said. “Every vote will count.”
In Buckhead, the Peachtree Presbyterian Church polling place also reported slow voting. As of 2:30 p.m., approximately 142 had turned out, according to polling place manager John Packman. He said he expected something more than 10 percent of the precinct’s voters would cast ballots.
Owen Hardy said he voted in favor of renewing a penny sales tax for local schools and allowing package alcohol sales on Sunday. He said the penny sales tax will help the schools by collecting taxes from people who come from out of town to shop in Atlanta. He said he supported Sunday package sales out of convenience.
“I never understood why they didn’t have it in the first place,” he said.
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–Melissa Weinman, Dan Whisenhunt, Joe Earle