Election officials worry about low turnout in Gwinnett County

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —

Gwinnett County elections officials said fewer than 4,000 people voted in advanced voting for the special local option sales tax referendum. That has some supporters of the SPLOST question worried low voter turnout will affect the results.

"I think a little bit more giving helps everyone," said voter Ethel Haynes.

Haynes was one of a few dozen people who cast ballots Friday at the county's main election office. In all, the county said 3,414 people had voted as of Friday morning. There are 480,000 registered voters in the county.

Officials said voter turnout could be well below the normal 20 percent for a non-presidential election. For most voters there, the SPLOST referendum is the only thing on the ballot

"The turnout is so low, a handful of people can make the difference in the outcome of this election," said Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash.

Nash said she's been pushing the benefits of the SPLOST vote to anyone who will listen. The referendum asks voters to continue a 1 percent sales tax for the next three years that funds specific projects across the county. This SPLOST would raise an estimated $498 million.

Voters in the county rejected only one SPLOST program in the last 25 years.

"People are affected every day by the things that were built by SPLOST, so we've got a track record," Nash said.

The Gwinnett tea party's Steve Ramey is a vocal critic of the special tax, but isn't sure the low voter turnout is good for his side either.

"I think it's a double-edged sword," Ramey said. "If we still got money in SPLOST, why are we asking for more?"

Only 10 of the county's 16 cities have council races or local questions on the ballots. That accounts for only about 100,000 registered voters.

Advanced voting in Gwinnett County is now closed. The polls open at all polling places Tuesday morning for the actual Election Day.