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Rep. Tom Graves has stepped down

Rep. Tom Graves, 14th Congressional District, sent letters to officials in the U.S. House of Representatives and Gov. Brian Kemp Oct. 2 to say he would be stepping down from Congress effective Sunday, Oct. 4, at 11:59 p.m.

Rep. Graves also entered the following farewell statement into the Congressional Record:

When I was young, my Dad always used to tell me that if I dreamed big and worked hard, I would achieve much. Dream Big, Work Hard, Achieve Much. I have carried that advice with me my entire life. Those words fueled my ability to go from the hall of a single-wide trailer to the halls of Congress.

I write that today as I reflect on what makes America so special: the ability to chart your own course and achieve any dream. My heart is filled with gratitude for our country and the enduring experiment of democracy that has allowed someone like me to end up in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past decade.

Serving as the Representative of Georgia’s 9th and 14th districts has truly been the honor of my life. This privilege was made possible by the sacrifice and support of so many wonderful people. First and foremost, my parents “Big Tom” and Penny; my wife, Julie; my children, Josephine, John, and Janey. My family has supported me every step of the way on this path of public service. My wife and children bore a burden that often goes unrecognized in politics. There are many precious days of life that we spent apart. Knowing their sacrifice motivated me every day to do the very best I could. Now it’s time to shift the focus to them, and support their journeys and dreams, just as they supported mine.

For my final words entered into the Congressional Record as a member of Congress, I want to share the most essential lesson learned over the past decade: the importance of relationship building. Tone, rhetoric and civility are crucial to opening doors to new and unexpected relationships with lawmakers from across the political spectrum. Often the best policies are the product of broad perspectives and creativity, with input from people who bring experience from different walks of life.

I can think of no better embodiment of that ideal than the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Committee members hail from opposite sides of the country, with different professional backgrounds and life experiences. Regardless of our political and personal differences, our commitment to those we serve — our constituents — came first. The way our committee operated should serve as a model for this institution. Our bipartisan collaboration resulted in 97 recommendations to make the legislative branch work better. I hope that this work continues, because the American people deserve an institution that is as forward thinking and innovative as they are. Bipartisan relationships are at the heart of anything that can become law, and the American people are far better off when we connect over shared goals and work together to accomplish them.

Serving on the Select Committee is the perfect capstone to my career in public service. I am grateful to my partner, Chair Derek Kilmer of Washington, for his outstanding leadership. Nothing the committee produced would have been possible without Chair Kilmer’s bipartisan approach and boundless passion for our work. I am also grateful to Leader Kevin McCarthy of California for appointing me Vice Chair of the committee. It was truly an honor to be chosen from the pool of talented members I serve alongside.

I am also filled with gratitude for my staff, who have delivered incredible service to my constituents and the country. These are people with a heart for public service, who truly care for our nation. I saw tremendous sacrifices made: long hours, late nights, the burden of stress and pressure that comes with the weight of the work, whether it was securing life-saving veterans benefits for one person or passing a policy that affects millions of Americans. My team carried themselves in such a way that it was clear they knew the honor and privilege of working for the U.S. House.

In my tenure, I had two chiefs of staff: Tim Baker and John Patrick Donnelly. They led our teams in Washington and Georgia, which included the following people:

My current staff, Bud Whitmire, Jason Murphy, Sam Mahler, Danielle Stewart, Ryan Diffley, Kristin Fillingim, Rachel Black, Max Berry, Diane Menorca, Tracey Bartley, Valerie Jones, Ashley Langston, Travis Loudermilk, Linda Liles and Jackie Mooney.

My former staff, Josh Finestone, Jason Lawrence, Bo Butler, Drew Ferguson, Garrett Hawkins, Shivani Vakharia, Rebecca Anderson, Morgan Joyce, Maggie Newton, Kate Bell, Ansley Rhyne, Alicia Stafford, Matt Hodge, Paige Davies and Ericka Pertierra.

Appropriations and Modernization Committee staff, John Martens, Jake Olson, Tim Monahan, Jenny Holmes, Dena Baron, Marybeth Nassif, Kelly Hitchcock, Ariana Sarar, Amy Catherine Murphy, Brad Allen, Allie Neill, Shalanda Young and Lisa Molyneux.

These are just some of the many extraordinary people who contributed to our work over the years.

Now, it is time for the next season in life. I will be forever grateful for the incredible privilege of serving my country and my community as a member of Congress.

May God bless every person in this institution, those serving now and those who serve in the years to come, with the wisdom, strength and compassion to advance this great and glorious cause we call the United States of America.

God bless America, and God bless Georgia. Go Dawgs!

The Washington, D.C., office and the Dalton and Rome offices of Rep. Graves will continue to serve the people of the 14th Congressional District under the supervision of the clerk of the House of Representatives. Specific details and services will be announced. While there will be a website transition, constituents of the 14th district will be able to call the same phone numbers to request assistance without any pause in operations.

Walker County receiving ballot drop-box

Walker County has received a ballot drop-box that will have 24-hour monitoring.

Danielle L. Montgomery, director of Walker County Elections and Registration, said she expects the county’s ballot drop box should be installed by Friday, Oct. 16, at 5 p.m. at the back corner of the courthouse closest to the county commissioner’s office. The box will be situated so that motorists can drop off their ballots without getting out of their vehicles.

The drop-off site will be “very safe, secure and weatherproof” as the state requires, she said. Until the drop-box is installed, voters are invited to mail in or return their ballots in person to the elections office, at 103 S. Duke St. Room 110, LaFayette, Ga., 30728; the elections office is on the ground floor of the Walker County Courthouse.

Roughly 43,000 Walker County residents were registered to vote in the general election as of Oct. 6, and the county elections office was still processing about 500 registrations completed online or with the Department of Driver Services before the Oct. 5 registration deadline, Montgomery said.

The number of voter registrations completed and absentee ballots requested indicate voter participation will be higher in 2020 than in 2016 when 24,526 of 32,951, or 74%, registered Walker County voters cast their ballots in the 2016 general election.

As of Oct. 2, the elections office had processed 6,613 absentee voter requests and received completed 2,097 ballots, she said. Approximately 1,000 voters voted absentee by mail in 2016.

What you need to know — how, when and where — to vote in the Nov. 3 general election in Walker County

In Walker County, the Nov. 3 general election ballot will include three local contested races. For the District 1 seat on the new Board of Commissioners, Republican Robert Blakemore is facing off against Democrat Bobby McDonald. Mark Askew, a Republican, is squaring off against Tyrone Davis, a Democrat, while Republican candidate Brian Hart is vying against Democrat candidate Hakie Shropshire for the Board of Commissioners District 2 and District 3 seats, respectively.

The ballot will also include some other high-interest contested races, including the presidential race, the crowded race to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and the U.S. Senate race between Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue.

Voting via absentee ballot

Oct. 5 was the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election. Voters can check their registration status online at mvp.sos.ga.gov.

Voters can complete the request for an absentee ballot from the Walker County Board of Elections and Registration. You can request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you until Oct. 30 at 2 p.m., but the completed ballot must be in the hands of election officials by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Completed absentee ballot applications can be returned via mail, email, fax or in person.

Completed absentee ballots can be returned via mail or dropped off in person; they cannot be returned via fax or email.

♦ By mail or in person: 103 S. Duke St. 110, LaFayette, Ga., 30728. If you mail your ballot back, don’t forget to put postage on it: one first class stamp. The election office is on the first floor of the Walker County Courthouse.

♦ By email: elections@walkerga.us

♦ By fax: 706-639-3346

♦ By phone: 706-638-4349

If someone else delivers your ballot for you, they must be related to you in one of the following ways: mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, individual residing in the same household as the voter, caretaker of the voter if the voter is disabled. No one else can legally deliver your ballot.

You must sign the back of the return envelope on absentee ballots. If you don’t, your ballot will have to be verified. If someone has helped you fill out your ballot, there is a place on the back of the return envelope where they must sign.

Need an absentee ballot? Call the elections office at 706-935-3990 or go online to https://sos.ga.gov/admin/files/Fillable%20Absentee%20Ballot%20Form%2020.pdf.

Early voting

Early voting will be at the Walker County Courthouse Monday through Friday, Oct. 12-30, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Polls will be open for one Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

All four satellite locations open on Saturday, Oct. 24, and then the following Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

♦ Georgia Northwestern Technical College, 265 Bicentennial Trail, Building 500 (Student Center), Rock Spring

♦ Rossville Civic Center, 400 McFarland Ave., Rossville

♦ Chickamauga Civic Center, 1817 Lee Clarkson Road, Chickamauga

♦ Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church, 1300 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain

Election day voting

For those wanting to cast a ballot and who did not vote early or via absentee, you must vote at your assigned precinct on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. If you aren’t sure which precinct that is, you can visit https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do or call the elections office at 706-638-4349.

Walker has 11 voting precincts, which will be open on Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.:

♦ LaFayette — LaFayette Senior Center, 636 S. Main St., LaFayette

♦ Walnut Grove — Walnut Grove Baptist Church, 55 Walnut Grove Road, LaFayette

♦ Rock Spring — Georgia Northwestern Technical College, 265 Bicentennial Trail, Building 500 (Student Center), Rock Spring

♦ Armuchee Valley — Armuchee Valley Community Center, 11471 E. Highway 136, LaFayette

♦ Mountain — Mt. Pleasant Community Center, 5981 Highway 157, Rising Fawn

♦ Chattanooga Valley — Chattanooga Valley Nazarene Church, 2853 Chattanooga Valley Road, Flintstone

♦ Kensington — Cassandra Baptist Church, 1371 W. Cove Road, Chickamauga

♦ Rossville — Rossville Civic Center, 400 McFarland Ave., Rossville

♦ Chickamauga — Chickamauga Civic Center, 1817 Lee Clarkson Road, Chickam♦ auga

♦ Fairyland — Lookout Mountain United Methodist Ch♦ urch, 1300 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain

♦ Fairview — VFW, 98 Memorial Drive, Rossville

If you change your mind abou

t voting absentee

If you received an absentee ballot and change your mind and decide to vote in person, you will have to bring your blank absentee ballot with you to a polling location or you will have to go to a polling location and request in writing that your unsubmitted absentee ballot be canceled. A poll worker will have to call the elections office to verify that you did not submit a ballot.

For more information

Go online to www.walkercountyelections.com, or email elections@walkerga.us, or call the elections office at 706-638-4349. Or you can visit the elections office is at the Walker County Courthouse, 103 S. Duke St. 110, LaFayette; the office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Absentee ballot tracking tool launched in Georgia for Nov. 3 election

Georgians planning to vote by mail in the Nov. 3 general election have a new way to track the status of their absentee ballots after requesting one.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office has launched a new online tracking system called BallotTrax that lets voters sign up for text or email alerts on their ballot status.

“Creating this new absentee ballot tracking and notification system will provide Georgia voters with greater clarity and increased confidence that their votes are accepted,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

The website to sign up for alerts is https://georgia.ballottrax.net/voter/.

The new system comes after Raffensperger’s office launched an online portal to request absentee ballots in August. More than 200,000 people had used the request portal as of Friday, Sept. 25, Raffensperger said.

Around 1.2 million Georgians have been sent absentee ballots so far, marking a surge in vote-by-mail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the tracking system, voters will receive a message when their absentee-ballot application is accepted, when the ballot itself is sent to a voter and whether the cast ballot is accepted or rejected, according to Raffensperger’s office.

Anyone whose mail-in ballot is rejected will be given instructions on how to correct the issue and make sure their vote is counted, Raffensperger’s office said.

Georgia is poised for record voter turnout in the Nov. 3 general election with a presidential contest, two U.S. Senate seats, congressional, state and local offices all on the ballot.

The new absentee-ballot online tools, combined with a push to recruit more poll workers and a separate online tool to track wait times in line on Election Day, aim to ease problems seen in the June 9 primaries when Georgians faced long lines and technical hiccups with voting machines.

Raffensperger in recent weeks has repeatedly expressed confidence the upcoming election will run as smoothly as possible despite the challenges of high voter turnout, new voting machines and the ongoing pandemic.

“We have a very robust plan of action for the November election cycle,” Raffensperger said. “I think we’re much better prepared.”