It’s qualifying time in Georgia for a primary and general election in May.

It’s a busy time.

I was reminded of that when Tommy Benton, state representative, pointed it out and said he intended to qualify this week.

We have had stories and ads about the offices that are up for election.

One that constantly baffles and bothers me is that competition for board of education seats is rare. Commerce BOE had two incumbents lose in the November elections and a third incumbent win by seven votes.

The offices up this year are for county positions. Two Jackson County BOE spots are up; four in Barrow County; three in Banks County; and at least one in Madison County.

I haven’t heard names for those in Barrow or Jackson County, although I hear the Barrow incumbents are running. One spot, Post 2, has competition.

School systems generally have more authority – certainly bigger budgets – than board of commissioners. Why no more people qualify, especially those who complain about school taxes, either because of their age or just that taxes are generally higher for schools than other local governments, is a mystery.

A number of people, particularly in Barrow and Jackson counties, have complained that those jurisdictions don’t exempt senior citizens from school taxes. The argument that most folks don’t pay enough in taxes while their kids are in school to pay for a local share of school money seems to carry little or no weight. Perhaps they don’t believe it.

Area schools generally pay about $2,300 or more a year per pupil in local money. Most folks pay $900 to $1,300 or $1,400 in school taxes.

Barrow County is about to sell $44 million in bonds. My guess is the vote will be unanimous with little to no discussion. The county will then have debt service payments until 2037. I should say the county has little choice. Barrow and Jackson counties are growing in big chunks. A new school is needed about every five or six years.

I digress. This is about elections.

The other big change for this year is a new voting system. I’ve seen it. It’s more complicated that formerly.

Having a paper trail has become a major issue. Georgia spent a lot of money to pay for a system that will print a ballot after you select choices on a computer. You can check the ballot and see if it matches your choices. Then a printer will print the ballot and that will go in a “trash can” – that’s what it looks like except it has a fancy top for the ballot.

If a paper trail is needed, it’s there.

Most folks are waiting to see if the system works. I saw 10 machines being programmed – 1 out of 10 did not work. The one did not, at first, but was repaired. None of the 10 were also hooked to a printer for those to work properly.

We’ll see come the presidential primary – which started early voting Monday. The election is March 24.

Some people have suggested going back to paper ballots to start. Getting folks to mark them correctly might be a difficult task.

We haven’t even gotten to the offices involved beyond school board.

Most of the courthouse offices will be chosen. Sheriff, probate judge, state court judge, clerk of court, tax commissioner, coroner, magistrate judge, solicitor, BOC chair and two district seats on the BOC.

In November, we will have “real” elections – Democrats and Republicans – the real elections are in the primary around here. The Barrow BOE has nine seats. All are Republicans. That’s the way for all BOE seats around here.

I’ve had two or three folks say there is no point in running as a Democrat for a local office in Jackson or Barrow counties. That’s a shame. I have voted in both primaries in Georgia and Tennessee, depending on where the choice was.

It’s early, but never too early – go vote.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Send email to him at ron@mainstreetnews.com.

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