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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Voters Say NO to Clarkston

Only 84 Voters Participated in the Clarkston Annexation Referendum

 The City of Clarkston, largely in response to the possibility of new cities close to or adjacent to Clarkston, had developed an annexation plan for two separate areas adjacent to the City. Their interest in annexation prompted both city movements for Briarcliff and Tucker to adjust their proposed borders in deference to Clarkston's interest in those areas.

The referendum vote on the annexation was held this past primary day, May 20th. The two proposed areas were considered separately, which allowed for an up or down vote for each unique area, the two were not tied together. For whatever reason, finding the results initially proved to be something of a challenge, but they are easily found today.

Both areas were voted down in the referendum. A total of 84 voters participated in the referendum, 14 in Part 1-A (6% of a registered 231 voters) and 70 in Part 2-B (from a total of 2,122 registered voters - a paltry 3% participation). The labels assigned to each area can be confusing as the map drawn by Clarkston conflicted with the published study, and none of the references were used in the bill approved by the General Assembly.  Part 1-A (Area 2 on their map) is the area to the west of the City, crossing I-285, and Part 2-B (Area 1 on their map) spans Brockett Road, to the City's northeast. Part 1-A was voted down in a 9 No to 5 Yes landslide, while the vote for Part 2-B was TIED, remarkably enough, at 35-35. In a tie vote, the No vote should prevail, as Georgia requires a 50% + 1 clear majority to be approved. I suspect Clarkston may be preparing a case to challenge the results.

Map and  formal results, after the break.

The results are reported by precinct, where only 4 precincts were involved. To confuse things even more, only a small portion of each precinct was included in the annexation areas, such that voters had to be separated by their personal address. The low voting totals can be attributed to the relatively few voters living in the proposed annexation areas, the generally low voter turnout being the norm for mid-term primary elections, and the general lack of interest in city issues we might presume for apartment dwellers. (My assumption. YMMV.) What I don't know is just how much effort the Clarkston city administration put into selling the annexation to the area's residents, or if those residents of the area familiar with the recent incorporation effort by Tucker chose to vote against annexation by Clarkston in order to leave the area open to be included in Tucker.

Another factor that may have suppressed voter participation was the procedure the City used for the vote. Letters were issued prior to the vote to those residents in the annexation areas confirming their residence and qualifying them for the referendum. Voters were asked to present this letter to voting officials at the various polling stations, only after which they would be allowed to participate in the referendum. Obviously, just from human nature, many voters would have ignored the letter or forgotten to bring it to the poll thereby having no proof they could participate. (Maybe they were allowed to vote using their ID and a determined attitude, but probably not.) Regardless, the main problem was the apparent inability to program the voting computers to automatically allow their participation, based on their street address alone, no letter or discussion required. If I recall correctly, this same problem compromised the first Chamblee DECA annexation vote, which was ultimately disallowed, allowing a second, positive, vote a year later.

ETA: On further reflection, if this qualification letter WAS required to be presented before someone was allowed to vote on the referendum, I'm beginning to think that this highly irregular procedure might be grounds for a lawsuit to invalidate the entire election process for the referendum. One would hope that this process was fully vetted by legal scholars before it was used here, but my limited experience with election officials would lead me to think the procedure was established without being completely thought out. There are simply too many ways for the voting process to be compromised by requiring this letter. Some voters will not have received the letter, many voters would have ignored the letter upon receipt, more voters would have lost it, others will have forgotten they needed it. And then one could argue, advocates for a Yes vote (City officials?) could easily have concentrated on making sure only their supporters were fully aware of the process and knew to bring the letter, while dissenters and less knowledgeable voters were left to their own devices. Even as a laymen unfamiliar with the particulars of election laws, this one just doesn't pass the smell test.

Of course, and this is just for our Village Idiot, we should note that all American CITIZENS were allowed to vote in the referendum, whether they be native born, immigrants or refugees, as long they were registered voters. And more power to our new American citizens exercising their right to vote. I suspect they are more knowledgeable of most of these issues than you are. (And you know who you are, Idiot.)

So, after Clarkston's failure to annex the area to the northeast, it remains to be seen if Tucker2015 will now add that area back into their map.

ETA: Per Gary M.'s comment following, it seems there will be a special election to have a re-vote on the annexation of Part 2-B (Area 1) where the vote was tied 35-35.  Initially, the City is stating that the special election will be held in 4 weeks. I find this relatively surprising for several reasons:

1.  I didn't realize that Georgia election policies allowed a revote in the case of a tie (losing) vote in a
     referendum. But, I suppose, when considering a vote for candidates running for a public office, a tie
     leaves everyone in limbo such that a re-vote would be required, and this would be no different.

2.  I'm surprised that Clarkston would still want to annex Part 2-B (Area 1) without also annexing Part 1-A
     (Area 2) as the anticipated revenue from the commercial area would be needed to help offset the
     additional costs for city services to the residential (read apartments) areas. Especially considering that
     Part 1-A was the higher priority for Clarkston.

3.  Why hold a special election just for Clarkston in late June when the already scheduled state-wide runoff
     vote is set for July 22nd? The formal annexation date, once approved, is January 1, 2015, so pushing
     a quick re-vote would seem an unnecessary waste of time and money as it will make no difference what-
     soever. Could it be the additional cost would be worth it to Clarkston as it would the most available
     means to manipulate the vote, as only the most highly motivated voters would make the effort to show
     up at the polls? Do they think they can get their supporters to the polls, while their opponents are left
     sleeping at the wheel through the re-vote? We shall see.
Following is a map of Clarkston illustrating the voting results, and the voting totals, by precinct, as published by the DeKalb County Office for Voter Registration and Elections.

This map of Clarkston is modified from the version first prepared by the City to also show the 4 precincts involved in the annexation referendum, the overall results, and the voting by precinct.

Clarkston Special Referendum Unofficial Results
        ABM - Absentee By Mail
        AIP1 - Advance In Person 1
        AIP2 - Advance In Person 2
        PRO - Provisional Ballot

Clarkston Special Referendum Unofficial Statement of Vote


  1. Some Clarkston residents created a web site at which they can vent called In the "City Issues" section there is insight into what a few people thought about the annexation attempt. A handful of mostly city residents were opposed. They don't think too highly of the way their current government handles things and seemed to think the unincorporated people would be worse off if they joined now.

    Clarkston held weekly town hall meetings in the month leading up to the vote and, according to people in the forum, it was protests from city residents that led to the meetings even taking place. Someone did say that people from one of the proposed annexation areas came to a meeting after receiving robo-calls about it. These potential annexees were from Mell Avenue, which leads me to believe they were some of the only homeowners in either proposed area, as almost all of the other residents are in apartments. They were also "hot under the collar" about the attempt, which would explain the No vote landslide in Part 1-A.

    The interesting thing I observed in the week leading up to the vote was that two batches of anti-annexation signs appeared along East Ponce and Brockett. The first ones looked professionally done and stressed the threat of higher taxes. Considering the fact that almost none of the actual voters in area Part 2-B pay property taxes directly, I suspect the signs were created by the property owners in that area who are content with their low-rent apartments and businesses so long as they pay low taxes. The signs lined the front of Tahoe Village and the Strokers complex. I also wondered what the owner of Strokers thought about the annexation. I remember back in 2008 Terri Fischer ran against Elaine Boyer. She's certainly not oblivious to politics, which leads me to believe that she may have been concerned about what Clarkston would do with her club. After Doraville went after Oasis and Brookhaven went after Pink Pony, I imagine she was worried about having the club close, being forced to relocate, or having her settlement with county renegotiated so that she'd have to pay Clarkston more money. That's what some people thought Brookhaven wanted to do but it actually doesn't appear to be the truth; however, that could be Clarkston's endgame if they really want the money like some of their current residents think.

    The other batch of signs I saw appeared homemade with folksy sayings. Both sets of signs diminished in number as the week went on, either due to everyday happenstance or an effort by Clarkston to remove them. Since many of the other junky signs and long row of Metro PCS ones remain up, I'm more of the mind that Clarkston had something to do with their removal.

    Clarkston posted the election results on their Facebook page Wednesday without any additional comment. I just checked and today they wrote that there will be another special election for the tie vote. I didn't think that would happen but, hey, this is DeKalb County.

  2. It looks like the few brave souls who voted made a good decision, for now. Clarkston elected officials don't make it appealing to join them: