Councilman critical of election process

Chris Herbert | Valdosta Daily TimesMatt Martin, Valdosta planning and zoning administrator, speaks to Valdosta City Council about rezoning projects around town.

VALDOSTA – Valdosta City Council met for its regular meeting at city hall Thursday and Councilman Eric Howard made it clear the local election Tuesday was not up to par.

"It's 2019, and we still can't get this voting thing right," Howard said.

Picked as one of six pilot counties to test new voting technology before the 2020 presidential election, Lowndes County experienced several issues on election day.

Problems with poll pads caused voting machines to not work at some polling locations Tuesday morning. Although poll workers were able to bypass this for voters, the delay caused the county to extend voting hours from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. to compensate for the loss of time.

Additionally, issues with memory cards caused poll workers to tally paper ballots as a failsafe instead of the planned method. Unofficial results came in about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Howard said he received calls from residents during the early morning on election day saying new voting machines were not properly working. He said he received calls about long lines at the Park Avenue polling place and disorganization at the Valdosta State University location.

"Early voting is a great tool, but it's not a replacement for the tradition of voting on election day," Howard said.

Mayor John Gayle agreed with Howard citing how less than 6,500 residents voted in the mayoral race. Gayle expressed concern about low voter turnout and general apathy toward local elections.

"We've got to do better," Gayle said.

He encouraged voters for better turnout in the mayoral runoff election Dec. 3.

Howard emphasized how an off-year election does not have the hurdles or expected turnout of a presidential election.

"If we can't handle this year, then a presidential election is going to be a problem," he said.

Other items of business during the meeting included council approving 55 new computers for the Valdosta Police Department, a conditional use permit for an appointment-only waxing salon at 2918 N. Oak St. and the removal of a conditional zoning status of two parcels at 405 and 407 Pine Tree Road.

The conditions set for the Pine Tree parcels were for a development planned in 2014 that never came to fruition, and the conditions would hinder any potential development in the future, said Matt Martin, Valdosta planning and zoning administrator.

The council also reappointed three members to the Central Valdosta Development Authority, reappointed James Cone to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals and appointed Jordan Taylor to the Valdosta Tree Commission.

Gayle appointed David Hiers and Thompson Kurrie Jr. to the Valdosta Housing Authority.

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