Turnout low on last day of early voting; Mableton Election Day is Tuesday

Mar. 17—MABLETON — As early voting in Mableton's municipal elections came to a close Friday, county officials said though there has been a jump in ballots cast during the past few days, voting numbers remain low.

As of 3:15 p.m. Friday, 1,776 people had voted early at the Mable House Arts Center and another 541 had cast ballots at the South Cobb Community Center since early voting began Feb. 27, according to Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.

Of 175 absentee ballots Cobb Elections has issued so far, 112 have been returned.

Eveler said this week has seen the highest daily tallies in early voting — 160 people voted Wednesday, while another 225 cast ballots Thursday.

She said Friday's numbers were poised to surpass those of the two preceding days, making it the busiest day of early voting.

A total of 2,429 people, including those who have sent in absentee ballots, have voted in the Mableton elections as of Friday afternoon, only about 5% of the roughly 47,200 registered voters Cobb Elections has on its voter rolls for Mableton (there are around 77,500 residents of the new city).

Kerwin Swint, director of Kennesaw State University's School of Government and International Affairs, said that low turnout for a special election such as Mableton's does not come as a surprise.

"Special elections are always kind of quirky, they're different," Swint said. "It's hard to predict what the turnout's going to be. They're normally low turnout affairs, depending on the issue involved or the individuals involved."

Swint said that in particular, the new slate of candidates with less name recognition could lead to lower turnout.

"It's not totally a shocker under these circumstances," he said.

Mableton's voter rolls and total population could drop in the near future, though nobody knows for certain when, or even if, that will happen. With lawmakers under the Gold Dome mulling de-annexation bills, which could draw City Council members out of their seats, voters at the Mable House Arts Center Friday offered their takes on the issue.

Tara Buckner said she is hopeful that, despite the push for de-annexation by some Mableton residents, there is potential for "exponential growth" in the new city.

Others did not realize the implications of legislation to de-annex parts of Mableton.

Litoria Scott-Floyd said she had heard residents in some parts of Mableton hoped to break off but did not realize certain City Council members could be drawn out of their districts right after being elected.

"That's crazy," said Alexis Menzies, who recently moved to Mableton from southern California, when she learned about the possible ramifications of de-annexation.

Chris Higginbotham, who moved from Mississippi to the Mableton area less than a year ago, is hoping to see more desirable developments in the city now that it will have control over its own zoning.

Higginbotham is also focused on the parks and recreation services the city will offer, as he is interested in more green spaces around Mableton.

Like Scott-Floyd, he was also surprised to hear that someone just elected to a position in the city could be drawn out of it right after the election.

"I don't know enough about it to comment," Higginbotham said.

One voter at the polls Friday who knew all about the de-annexation movement was Stacey Hall.

"I voted no, no, no, no, no, no" for Mableton cityhood, Hall said.

She signed a petition right after the election to de-annex, and she also began calling representatives in the area to express her opposition to the city forming and her desire to be out of it.

Hall used choice words to describe advocates of Mableton cityhood, and she voted for candidates supporting residents' de-annexation efforts.

Lisa Parsons and Peter Pages, who moved from Decatur to Mableton about three years ago, said they are hopeful the city can hit the ground running despite the controversy surrounding de-annexation.

"I just think it's really exciting that we've got the opportunity to build from scratch a community, to create community engagement, to create a better life for the people that live here," Parsons said.

Pages said despite being "up in the air" about Mableton cityhood in November — he voted "no" to cityhood — he values local government and thinks there is a lot of potential for Mableton leaders to unlock.

One of those areas where they see potential is parks and recreation, one of four services the new city is set to offer, along with sanitation, code enforcement and zoning.

Parsons also hopes that more control over zoning will bring better development to areas like Veterans Memorial Highway, which she said would both attract new residents and those who have been in Mableton for years to stick around.

"I want to make sure that the people that have been here for a long time are respected and are able to...benefit from improvements in this city and not have to move elsewhere, like has happened in several other places," Parsons said.

Election Day for Mableton is Tuesday. Elections for the city's mayor and six City Council districts will be held that day, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For those planning to submit absentee ballots, they must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents in the Mableton city limits voted to incorporate in the Nov. 8 general election, when cityhood was approved with 13,191 votes, or 53%, to 11,694 votes, or 47%.