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Nearly 30% of Floyd voters have already cast ballots in June primary

With Georgia’s primary election less than a week away, Rome and Floyd County leaders have learned that more than 11,000 local votes have already been cast.

County Manager Jamie McCord told members of a Joint Services Committee that more than 9,500 absentee ballots had already been returned to the local office and a little more than 2,000 residents had participated in early voting.

“That’s probably a little higher than a lot of people had estimated,” McCord said.

Through Monday, more than 18,100 Floyd County voters had requested an absentee ballot, so the numbers show that a little more than half of those ballots had been cast.

Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady said Wednesday that, all things considered, 27.73% of the registered voters in Rome and Floyd County had already cast ballots.

Brady is not expecting much of a physical turnout at the polls Tuesday and is holding to his projection of a turnout in the range of 32%.

“That’s not wonderful, but it doesn’t stink,” Brady said.

In-person early voting runs through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rome Civic Center.

All precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.

At this point there is still only one change in the poll locations for Tuesday. The Barkers precinct, which used to vote at the Renaissance Marquis, cannot vote there because of the COVID-19 crisis. Those voters will cast ballots slightly north on U.S. 27, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post that serves as the Vanns Valley precinct.

Voters still have time to mail in their ballot, or they can be returned through a couple of drop boxes — one located at the County Administration building at 12 E. Fourth Ave., the other at the Rome-Floyd County Library, 205 Riverside Parkway.

Brady said the most frequent question he’s getting relates to the drop boxes.

“They want to know how secure this is,” Brady said. “They are picked up by a team of two every 24 hours.”

The boxes are under video surveillance 24 hours a day.

“The ballot boxes are 100% safe,” Brady said.

Each box has two locks that have to be opened separately with unique keys.

It is still not clear if the boxes will be used for what would appear to be inevitable run-offs in several races.

Voters can check on the status of their absentee ballot on the Georgia My Voter website. After logging in, scroll to the link that reads “Check absentee ballot status.”

People who feel more comfortable voting in person can simply surrender their absentee ballot at the polls when they show up to vote.

“If you applied for an absentee ballot and you choose not to vote it, then there is an affidavit, some paperwork you have to file,” Brady said. “That takes a minute or two.”

Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, said that in-person voting will go a little slower this year because of all the health-related issues such as sanitizing the equipment between voters.

Jones said more than 976,000 Georgians statewide had voted through Wednesday, including more than 783,000 who took advantage of the opportunity to vote absentee.

Several gatherings scheduled for the weekend

Rome has experienced an increase in requests for groups to assemble and, as of Wednesday afternoon, three demonstrations are approved by the Rome Police Department for this coming weekend.

On Saturday at 10 a.m. a march organized by Jace Pearson and Jaquez Brown will gather at the North Rome Church of God, 1929 N. Broad St., and march to the Town Green downtown. The assembly end time is listed as 1 p.m.

Also on Saturday, Pastor Rondie Goode said they’ve organized the Power of Truth rally at Rome City Hall, 601 Broad St. He said his church, Kingdom Church International of Adairsville, alongside other churches, expects to have music and singing at the event as well.

“This is really an assembly call for unity, love,” Goode said. “Everyone is invited and it’s a call to Unity in Christ.”

On Sunday there will be a gathering — We Matter: A Peaceful Protest — from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at City Hall.

The intention of the gathering is to honor the life of George Floyd and many others whose lives were wrongfully taken by law enforcement, said organizer Candice Spivey.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a white police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. A video shows Floyd begging the officer to remove his knee prior to his death.

Prosecutors on Wednesday expanded their case against the police who were at the scene of George Floyd’s death, charging three of the officers with aiding and abetting a murder and upgrading the charges against the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck to second-degree murder.

“We will be standing for the injustices within our nation and local community. Sunday will be a time for all to come together to peacefully support the black community of Rome, Georgia, and heal the wound of racism within our relationships,” Spivey said.

“We will also be standing for justice to be served for Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell, local women who were killed weeks ago and their cases are still open.”

Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett said the police department is working to accommodate all requests during this time.

“We fully support and respect everyone’s rights and freedom of speech,” Burnett said in a release. “We ask that everyone please comply with the city ordinance for permitting gatherings and assemblies. This helps us keep everyone safe, have time for logistics and planning for staffing such events, and provide protection for everyone involved.”

So far several groups have formed to protest in Rome locations.

This past weekend there were two peaceful assemblies in front of City Hall and on Tuesday a 30-minute gathering across Rome, but focused on Broad Street, brought people by the hundreds. The pop-up rally was organized by AMP Rome — an acronym for Art. Music. Purpose. — and participants held up signs with the names of black Americans who have been killed by police.

Permit applications should be submitted at least four days prior to the event. Applications are available online at https://www.romefloyd.com/departments/rome-police-department.

Questions about when a permit for an assembly is required can be directed to Maj. Rodney Bailey at 706-238-5111.

“Please remember when planning any type of assembly, regardless of the number of participants, in any city building, structure, parking lot, recreational facility or square, or upon any street, sidewalk, park, or public right of way which requires the temporary closing or obstruction of all or a portion, or involves a vehicle, or involves the use of any electronic sound amplification, requires the application of an assembly permit,” Burnett said. “Thank you for your cooperation as we work together to build a stronger community.”

Lane Anderson, a fifth-grader at Armuchee Elementary School

Gov. Kemp to scale back budget cuts

ATLANTA — Citing “reassuring signs of fiscal resilience” in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday that cuts to next year’s state budget won’t be as deep as originally feared.

In a video message, Kemp notified state agency heads and legislative leaders he is preparing an updated revenue estimate that will call for 11% across-the-board spending reductions in the coming fiscal year rather than the 14% cuts originally anticipated.

The new revenue projections reflect expectations the coronavirus pandemic will have somewhat less of an economic impact on Georgia’s economy than had been predicted when the 14% cuts were ordered.

“Our state is positioned to weather this storm better than most,” Kemp said. “I’m hopeful our state will be able to avoid the draconian cuts and measures many others across the country will be forced to make.”

State senators holding budget hearings since last week have been confronted with the difficult choice between furloughing teachers and state employees or keeping them on the job at reduced pay.

Kemp said Wednesday the pandemic has highlighted the importance of teachers, health-care workers and others on the front line of fighting COVID-19.

He pledged to make education, health care and public safety top priorities even as agency heads and lawmakers grapple with tough decisions on how to balance the state’s needs with declining tax revenues.

The General Assembly, which was suspended in mid-March by the coronavirus outbreak, will reconvene June 15, with passing the fiscal 2021 state budget as its top priority. Just 11 days remain in the 2020 legislative session.

Recycling center to reopen Thursday, ramping up toward normal operations

The Rome-Floyd Recycling Center will reopen to the public on Thursday — the next step in resuming full operations following a shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Remote sites, Rome curbside pickup and a drop-off area at the facility at 412 Lavender Drive also are in service.

Sorting work at the facility is starting to ramp up and County Manager Jamie McCord said he hopes to have everything back to 100% before the end of the month.

Public Works Director Michael Skeen and County Prison Warden Mike Long are continuing to review lengthy housekeeping plans relative to maintaining the plant going forward.

It typically takes 32 to 40 inmate laborers to run the operation, McCord said.

During the peak of the health care emergency locally, in March and April, the county was not getting any inmate labor at the center. The number of inmates going to work has slowly been increasing since May 1, according to Long.

The warden said part of the problem recently has been a shortage of inmates. The Georgia Department of Corrections put a hold on the transfer of inmates for much of the past three months. As some of the local prisoners were released, the available workforce dwindled.

“I just went and picked up 36,” Long said Wednesday. The Floyd County Prison can accommodate 439 inmates but only has 400 at this time.

To this point, the crews have largely been focused on cleaning the building and the equipment.

“We are starting to take some materials this week,” McCord said.

He estimated the center would be at the 50% service level by the end of next week and closer to 100% by the week after.