Walker Commissioner Bebe Heiskell has said the special-purpose local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, referendum is scheduled for June 17. The revenue generated from the 1-cent sales tax goes toward special projects in the county, possibly including parks, public works and other capital outlay projects.
County attorney Don Oliver said the county's position is to hold the District 1 election and SPLOST referendum on different days to avoid any confusion even though holding two elections will cost more. He sent a fax last Thursday all attorneys involved in the case, asking their cooperation in scheduling another date for District 1 face-off. Oliver said, on Monday, he had not received any responses from those attorneys.
“I’m not real excited about it being on the same date,” Heiskell said. “Some of the people might have moved from Walker County that would have been eligible to vote, and some people have moved into Walker County who won’t be eligible to vote because they didn’t vote in that election. It gets complicated.”
Walker County Elections and Registration Superintendent Barbara Berry said the county will spend nearly $19,000 to have both the SPLOST and District 1 elections on the same day. If the elections are held on two different days, it will cost twice as much, or about $38,000.
Heiskell said she fears possible complications in the District 1 race could taint the results of the SPLOST referendum.
“The chance of us having to redo the SPLOST is a big concern to me,” she said. “It’s really important that we pass this SPLOST. Even if I am voted out of office, the next county commissioner’s hands would be tied if they don’t have any SPLOST money to work with.”
Elections office works on remedy
Berry said she has been working with Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox’s office to update voter information and eliminate potential election problems.
Updated voter information is being entered into the computer system so new voter registration cards can be mailed out, Berry said. She said she hopes to mail the cards by May 1.
“We hope it’s going to solve the confusion by sending the cards out,” Berry said.
Another benefit to Berry’s office is the recent hiring of Bob Linderman, she said, adding she expects he will be a great asset in helping to work the kinks out of the system.
Linderman said he is seeking a degree in computer networking from Coosa Valley Technical College. He has also trained with Diebold, the manufacturer of the electronic voting machines now used by Georgia. Before coming to Walker, he said he worked in the past three elections in Chattooga County, where he was instrumental in fixing some election problems.
During a March election for Chattooga tax commissioner, poll workers committed several errors that jeopardized the election results, Linderman said. His training and background with Diebold helped him resolve the problems.
He said he was employed by Diebold during his first Chattooga election and was contracted by the county to work during the next two elections before being picked up by Walker County.
Berry said another change taking place during the upcoming elections will be setting up a monitor in the Walker County Courthouse to display election returns as they are tallied.
Date questioned for third election
Based on evidence presented in court on April 7, Tallapoosa Circuit Senior Judge Arthur Fudger ordered a third District 1 election. At the suggestion of the attorneys, he tentatively scheduled the election on June 17 to coincide with the SPLOST vote, in the hopes of saving tax dollars.
Fudger said he would amend the date he set in the ruling if necessary.
Although county officials are trying to determine if the elections will be held separately or on the same day, Berry said her office working on the assumption they will both be held on June 17, based on the judge’s ruling.
In January, Art Thompson, a LaFayette resident and former chairman of the Walker County Republican Party, filed a lawsuit questioning the results of the Jan. 7 District 1 re-election. He alleged enough voting irregularities uncovered in the Nov. 5 general election persisted in the Jan. 7 rematch to sway the results of that race.
Thompson alleged some voters in District 1 were not allowed to vote, while some District 2 residents improperly voted in the Jan. 7 election.
Neal won the Nov. 5 general election by 197 votes. The tables turned Jan. 7, when Snow won the re-election by a 73-vote margin. Snow was sworn into the state House of Representatives and has been participating in the ongoing 2003 legislative session.
Bryan Tyson, reapportionment coordinator for the Georgia Republican Caucus, testified that he confirmed 92 ballots were cast by voters outside District 1, and 133 other ballots were questionable but unconfirmed.
Berry said Cox’s office instructed her not to use data provided by third parties, such as the data submitted during Tyson’s testimony