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Candidates requesting monitors
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Two candidates vying for local elected office want poll watchers appointed to monitor precincts in the upcoming July 31 general primary.

Last week, Mike Connor, who is running for county commission chairman, and 9th District State House candidate Clint Smith each presented a list of individuals they want appointed as official poll watchers to observe the election process.

Dawson County Republican Party Chairman Clint Bearden said he was given the requests July 10, 21 days prior to the July 31 primary in accordance with Georgia Code.

The decision to appoint poll watchers, which falls under the local GOP's executive committee, must be made by July 23.

The request is now under review by the party's executive committee, he said.

"The executive committee's highest priority is to ensure that the elections process is fair in all parts for each and every republican candidate and, likewise, to ensure that all of the county's republican voters may freely vote their conscience in the voting booth on July 31," Bearden said.

Smith said the request for appointed poll watchers was not "taken out of concern or distrust, but simply another positive step in the direction of a campaign."

"I have always been a supporter of improving the elections process at the local level," he said.

Kevin Tanner, who is also seeking the 9th State House seat, said he supports transparent, fair elections. He praised local election officials for their work.

"I have the utmost confidence in our election process that it will be done correctly and the utmost confidence in our election supervisor and the election's office that the election process is done in accordance with the law," Tanner said. "I know each member of the election board and I know they take their job very seriously."

Smith's list of watchers includes: Palmer Fletcher at the east precinct, Bill Galloway at the central precinct and David Sexton at the tabulation center.

Smith is not requesting a poll watcher at the west precinct, since he is not on the ballot in that area. Voters in that area are in David Ralston's 7th house district.

In an e-mail Tuesday morning, Connor quoted Georgia Code 21-2-408 that states "each candidate is entitled to request one poll watcher in each precinct."

His list includes: Kay Mango for the east precinct, Sam Wadsworth at the west precinct, Arlene McClure at the central precinct and wife Betsy Connor at the tabulation center.

While a candidate cannot be a poll watcher, the law doesn't bar family members from serving in that capacity on the candidate's behalf.

Mike Berg, who is seeking a third term as commission chair, said he can see no reason why poll watchers would be needed for the general primary.

"The [election] process is about as good as it gets. I think the people that work the polls and the citizens that vote have high ethical standards," he said.

Poll watchers were last used locally seven or eight years ago, according to Glenda Ferguson, election supervisor and election board chairwoman.

If it is decided to appoint the observers, Ferguson said she would recommend an educational meeting to discuss their duties as poll watchers, including responsibilities, requirements and limitations.