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Republicans request poll watchers
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Two Republican candidates have requested poll watchers at the July 31 general primary election.

Mike Connor, a candidate for board of commission chair, and Clint Smith, District 9 state representative candidate, put in their requests July 10. State law requires that requests for poll watchers be made 21 days before a primary, or 14 days prior to a primary runoff.

This is still in the making, Glenda Ferguson, director of the Board of Elections and Registration, said at the boards July 16 meeting.

There has been a request made for poll watchers, said Clint Bearden, chairman of the Dawson County Republican Party, but theres not been a formal decision made by the executive committee.

Ferguson and Bearden both recalled a time when poll observers had been requested in the past, but they couldnt remember exact dates. Its been a while, Ferguson said, but it has happened in Dawson before.

Bearden explained a response will need to be made by the evening of July 23.

Essentially, there are a couple of points that the committee had questions about, which I am working to clarify with outside legal counsel, Bearden said. Once those points are addressed, I believe that we will be much closer to a resolution.

For Connor, the issue of having poll watchers comes down to transparency.

Quite frankly, we, the voters, have heard so much recently about voter fraud across the country, Connor said. Im not saying just here in the county ... just generally speaking.

Connor said that while only two candidates have filed requests, he recalled that five Republican candidates had discussed the possibility of requesting poll watchers.

When it came to my attention that I had the opportunity to ask for poll watchers, I thought, Why not? Connor continued. Why would I object? I would think theyd all want one. It makes it more transparent.

Smith agrees.

It is not an action taken out of concern or distrust, but simply another positive step in the direction of a campaign, Smith said. I have always been a supporter of improving the elections process at the local level.

Poll watchers are an additional ingredient of a successful election cycle, he added.

Any candidate with his or her name on the ballot can request a poll watcher.

Poll watchers would be designated by an official badge, and are allowed behind the registration table at each polling place and into the tabulation room following the closing of the polls at 7 p.m. on July 31. They are not allowed into the voting booths with voters.

According to state law, poll watchers are prohibited from talking to voters, checking electors lists or participating in any other form of campaigning while behind enclosed space or in advance voting location.

They are also prohibited from using photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording device and cell phones in the enclosed area at the polling place or advance voting location.

If poll watchers fail to abide by the rules as set forth by the state, they may be removed from the polling place.

Ferguson said that both Conner and Smith have listed the representatives they would like to have at each precinct. Georgia law provides for candidates to make specific requests of people they would like to have serve as poll watchers.

Its at least one per precinct, which is what they have done, Ferguson said.

Before attending each precinct, poll watchers will be educated on what they are and are not allowed to do, the elections board was told.

Separately discussed at the July 16 meeting were the results of early voting so far in Dawson.

As of 5 p.m. July 13, 580 people voted in person at the Academy Avenue Board of Elections office, with 59 paper ballots received, for a total of 639 votes for the July 31 primary. There are 12,930 active registered voters in Dawson County, according to the board.

Early voting will be open this Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Board of Elections office. Ferguson said approximately 75 people took part in the Saturday early voting during the last election.