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Election 2016 Preview: County to select District 2 commissioner next week
Early voting ends Friday, Election Day is Tuesday
A-Election Preview Ballot-1
Sample ballot

With early voting winding down, Dawson County residents are well on their way to having one of the best turnouts in recent memory.

According to Dawson County Board of Elections Chairwoman and Election Supervisor Glenda Ferguson, 5,878 voters have participated in early voting as of Oct. 31.

In 2012, the last presidential election, the board of elections counted 6,114 total early votes.

Ferguson said the number of early voters this year could beat out the number from 2012 as there are still a few days left before early voting closes.

Early voting began on Oct. 17 and will continue through Friday at the board of elections office at 96 Academy Ave., in downtown Dawsonville. Hours for early voting are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ferguson also said that this year, the county could see its biggest voter turnout ever.

On Election Day in 2012, 3,663 residents voted, with a grand total of 10,277 Dawsonville citizens casting ballots that year.

"We expect to exceed that, as we've had a lot of early voters and a lot of new, first time voters," Ferguson said. "In 2012 we had a countywide voter turnout of 77.6 percent- this year I'm projecting it will be 79 to 80 percent."

The total number of active, registered voters in the county is 14,591.

The only local office still up for grabs is the District 2 Commission seat, a position currently held by two-term commissioner James Swafford, who did not seek re-election. Chris Gaines and Robert Wiley are the commission seat candidates.

Gaines, 39, ran in the Republican primary against Tim Davis and won with 51.16 percent of the vote over Davis' 48.84 percent.

A former Dawsonville city councilman, Gaines served on the city council for three years, resigning in November 2014 when he moved outside the city limits.

Gaines said he believes his knowledge and experience in local government would allow him to transition seamlessly into the county commissioner role, and that he is looking forward to seeing the results of the election.

"It has been an exciting process and it has been great to see the high number of voter turnout, it really shows the importance of this election on a local and national level," Gaines said. "I appreciate the support and encouragement and prayers I have received so far."

Wiley, 48, qualified in July to run against Gaines for the seat.

The retired army engineer and JROTC instructor at Dawson County High School was officially put on the ballot for the District 2 county commission seat after receiving 663 signatures from registered Dawson County voters.

Wiley had to file his petition as an Independent candidate in the general election because he decided to run after the first qualification. Wiley said in July that he considers himself a Republican.

Though he has lived in Dawson County for only two years, Wiley believes his conservative values make him a good fit for the area.

"I want to slow down growth in the area, I think we need to put a good plan in place before it grows too big," Wiley said. "Gaines and I are both qualified candidates, I think it just comes down to what you want for Dawson County."

Also on the local ballot, will be candidates for the United States presidency: Donald J. Trump, Hillary Clinton and Gary Johnson. Candidates for the United States Senate seat for Georgia are Johnny Isakson, Jim Barksdale and Allen Buckley. Candidates for the public service commissioner are Tim Echols and Eric Hoskins.

There will also be four amendments on this year's ballot.

Amendment one would amend the constitution of Georgia to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance. Gov. Nathan Deal has been pushing the Opportunity School Districts, where an appointed superintendent would have final say over public school boards in an effort to get the schools back on track. The amendment has received a lot of opposition.

Amendment two would amend the constitution of Georgia to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is found guilty of sexual exploitation, and allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals who have been or may have been sexually exploited.

Amendment three would amend the constitution of Georgia to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission and require the General Assembly to create and a new Judicial Qualifications Commission that will have the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges.

Amendment four would amend the constitution of Georgia so that the proceeds or excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks would be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and local public safety purposes.

Voting will be held countywide from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 8.

Residents must be registered and present a valid photo ID in order to vote.

Voters can check to see if they are registered or find out what precinct they are in by visiting the My Voter Page website at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov, said Ferguson.

If on Election Day citizens are still unsure of where to vote, Ferguson said that voters can call the board of elections at (706) 344-3640.

"It's better to call and ask than to wait in line in the wrong precinct," Ferguson said.

Another tip Ferguson has for voters is to be familiar with the sample ballot and with the amendments before coming in to cast a ballot on election day. Sample ballots can be found in this week's edition.

Results will be available online at dawsonnews.com the night of the election.

An article detailing the results will also be found in the Nov. 16 edition of the Dawson County News.