by Robin Kemp

The number-one event this week, by far, is the Presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Clayton County. However, national results will be at least a few days away, given the sheer volume of absentee and advance ballots and the high turnout expected tomorrow.

If you have not voted yet and plan to vote in person, you need to know a few things:

  • It’s going to be cold and lines are likely to form well before 7 a.m. when the polls open. If you plan to get there early–especially before the sun comes up–dress warmly, wear a hat and gloves to maintain your body temperature, and bring a blanket. You also might want to bring something hot to drink with you. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City forecasts lows in the mid- to upper 30’s, with light winds and highs in the 60s Tuesday.
  • Clayton County has seven new polling places–check to see if your old one has changed on your My Voter Page or see the full list on the Clayton County Elections and Registration website.
  • Georgia election law requires election superintendents to have “a sufficient number” (defined as 10% of the voters registered at that polling place) paper ballots on hand in case of an emergency, such as a power outage. Consider bringing a pen with you.
  • Remember to bring your approved photo ID. That includes any valid state or federal government issued photo ID, including free ID cards from Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) or your county registrar; valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state; valid US passport ID; valid U.S. military photo ID; student photo ID card issued by a Georgia public college, university, or technical school; or a valid tribal photo ID.
  • If you don’t have ID, you can vote a provisional ballot. If this is your first time voting, you’ll have three days to show your ID at the county Board of Elections and Registration. Otherwise, your vote will not count.
  • It is illegal to advocate for your candidate or party or to attempt to influence other voters while in line or within 150 ft. of the outer edge of the building where a polling place is established, or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line. That includes displaying campaign materials, signs, banners, or literature; influencing voters, soliciting votes, or attempting political persuasion; and circulating petitions or soliciting signatures. Exit polls and opinion polls are banned within 25 feet of the exit. (That also would include Facebook Lives promoting a candidate while in line.) The State Election Board has already ruled that MAGA hats are off limits at the polls; President Donald Trump’s campaign trademarked the slogan on July 14, 2015. Poll workers in Fulton and Forsyth Counties incorrectly told voters they could not display Black Lives Matter apparel. Supervisors allowed the voters in because the slogan is not associated with a specific political party.
  • Under Georgia law, poll watchers–who are appointed by political parties, political bodies, nonpartisan candidates, and independent candidates– may not speak to voters, interfere with the conduct of the election, check elector’s lists, take photos or video or use “any other electronic monitoring or recording devices,”use cell phones, or campaign while at the polls. The county elections superintendent will supply badges that read “Official Poll Watcher” and show the person’s name, which election the person is working, and the person’s precinct, tabulating center, or statewide authorization to be present. The superintendent can kick out any poll watcher who violates the law.
  • It’s possible that you may see people open carrying firearms outside the 150-foot electioneering boundary. It is illegal to open carry in Georgia without a Weapons Carry License or a concealed carry permit from a reciprocal state, according to USCCA. A WCL is also required for concealed carry in public (exceptions include hunting, fishing, your home, your vehicle, your place of business, or carrying an unloaded weapon in a case). It is a federal crime to carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of school property. Schools, churches, and private businesses have the power to ban firearms from their premises. If anyone questions you or stops you while you are trying to vote, call 911. The Brennan Center for Justice, which accuses the Trump administration of encouraging voter intimidation, warns, “(t)he law is crystal clear: it is illegal to deploy federal troops or armed federal law enforcement officers to any polling place. State and local laws and practices place limits on the role of law enforcement and poll watchers. And a host of federal and state laws, many of which also carry severe criminal penalties, prevent anyone — whether a law enforcement officer or a vigilante — from harassing or intimidating voters.”

Here’s a look at the final day of advance voting on Friday, Oct. 30:

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In other news, the Forest Park City Council will meet Monday ay 6 p.m. to discuss a host of major issues, including confirmation of a new director of Planning, Building, and Zoning and a request from the Economic Development Department for Tax Allocation District (TAD) funds for three Main Street projects (remodeling unspecified buildings, building an access road in an unspecified location, and building a sidewalk and “parking lot/public throughway,” at $50,000 per project or $100,000 total). Economic Development would manage funding, inspecting, and billing the upgrades. The money would be “awarded through a public agency designated by Council.”

Forest Park continues to lock out members of the media and citizens from its City Council meetings, claiming it’s a COVID-19 precaution, while sponsoring numerous public events where masks and social distancing are not enforced.

Other issues on the agenda include a second attempt at getting the Georgia Assembly to reintroduce a bill that, if passed, would “create removal provisions for development authority members similar to those in state law for the URA.” HB 34, which was introduced by members of the Clayton County delegation, failed to make it out of committee last session. The bill would allow business owners to serve on development authority boards, as well as give cities the power to punish any member’s “unethical or dishonorable conduct.” In February, the council voted to fire the Urban Development Authority board and transfer its powers to the Downtown Development Authority, which Mayor Angelyne Butler chairs, after the URA turned down Butler’s request to issue bonds for a public safety complex for which no plans had been submitted.

Councilwoman Kimberly James, who has in recent weeks asked for greater transparency in how the city handles its business, has several items for discussion on the agenda. These include all city boards’ bylaws and policies, “police and policy,” overtime, “Task Force findings,” unbudgeted expenditures, and public comments.

Submit your comments before noon on Slido, and join the Zoom meeting online.

The city continues to ban the public and press from attending council meetings in person. The Clayton Crescent’s attorneys have sent a second demand letter to city officials, warning that continued violations of the Open Meetings Act could result in court action. The city contends that COVID-19 is forcing them to lock out the public. However, city officials continue to hold festivals and other events in Starr Park, where officials have been repeatedly photographed without masks and not observing social distancing.

Mayor Angelyne Butler (center) at Dia de los Muertos festival, Nov. 1, 2020
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