'Drop-off' expected even with notable issues at end of ballot

LAWRENCEVILLE - The governor's race may be what draws voters to the polls, but some of the most interesting campaigns this year are on the bottom of the ticket, officials say.

That's where voters will weigh in on whether a penny sales tax is extended to pay for school construction and if the county can use a new financing tool for redevelopment.

But whether an already apathetic electorate will make it to the bottom is another question.

"There is going to be a lot of drop-off," political scientist Adam Stone predicted. "Voters are going to get tired."

Drop-off is when the number of votes cast at the top of the ballot - this year, the governor's race - is higher than the votes cast for the items at the bottom of the ballot.

The sales tax question is the last one this year, but it has become a popular idea, passing twice in the past decade.

Attorneys leading the campaign for the Redevelopment Powers Act said the sales tax question's position could help keep voters on task for his issue.

"But I'm afraid the average person won't have heard of it," Tom Tate said.

"They are going to face a complicated ballot and a complicated question," Michael Sullivan added.

Sen. Don Balfour spent some time with voters last week explaining a constitutional amendment to limit the powers of eminent domain. That item is one of three proposed amendments on the ballot along with six proposed statewide referenda.

One of the 5,000 people who cast ballots during last week's early voting period, R.N. Singh said he wasn't aware of the questions before he read a sample ballot.

"I had not heard of those things before, and I consider myself a fairly informed person," the Suwanee man said.

Other important questions are facing voters in Barrow County, where a homestead exemption for seniors is on the ballot, and in Grayson and Norcross, where voters will consider liquor measures.

Stone and Gwinnett Elections Supervisor Lynn Ledford both expect about 30 percent of registered voters to cast ballots.

"(This) is a hotter election time nationally than it is locally," Stone said. "This is a very quiet year."

Lawrenceville resident DeAnn Smith said she isn't deterred by the lackluster year in politics.

"For some of us, it kind of inspires us more," she said. "I hate to hear that people don't want to vote."

During this week's early voting period, 5,847 people had cast ballots by the end of the day Thursday. Totals for Friday were not available at press time.

Issues on the ballot

The following referenda will be before voters Tuesday:

Education sales tax

• Who will vote: Gwinnett County voters

• The issue: If the measure passes, officials will continue to collect a 1 percent sales tax. The money will go to building 1,760 new classrooms.

Redevelopment Powers Act

• Who will vote: Gwinnett County voters

• The issue: Adoption of the measure will allow officials to set up tax allocation districts, which earmarks revenues expected from property value increases for infrastructure improvements.

Eminent domain

• Who will vote: Georgia voters

• The issue: Legislators voted to stop governments from condemning land for economic development purposes, but only a constitutional amendment can close the loophole for certain authorities.

Homestead exemption

• Who will vote: Barrow County voters

• The issue: The proposed homestead exemption would give a property tax break of up to $60,000 to seniors 62 years old or older who have an income of less than 2.5 times the federal poverty rate.

Liquor by the drink

• Who will vote: Norcross voters

• The issue: If passed, servers will be allowed to extend the time to sell liquor from Saturday at 11:55 p.m. until 2:55 a.m. on Sunday, and in eating establishments and inns between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and midnight on Sunday.

Liquor by the drink

• Who will vote: Grayson voters

• The issue: Restaurants in the small berg have asked for permission to serve alcohol.