New elections supervisor

Tue, 01/02/2007 - 5:36pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Tom Sawyer has taken the position previously held by the late Margaret Malone, who served as the Fayette County Elections and Voter Registration Supervisor. Her untimely death was July 10, 2006.

Sawyer was raised in Sylvester in south Georgia, where his dad had a furniture store. He was graduated from Auburn University in 1969 with a degree in business.

His wife, Gail, is from Tifton, and they have been married for 33 years. She is retired from Delta Air Lines. They came to Fayette County in 1979.

They have a son, Matt, who lives in Newnan. He and his wife are about to present Tom and Gail with their first grandchild.

Sawyer's background has been pretty much in the field of accounting and he was working in the Fayette County Finance Department before moving to elections. He served as its budget officer.

The office consists of a supervisor, an officer, and two clerks.

They are employed by the county, but answer to the Fayette County Elections Board. It consists of three members; one is appointed by the commissioners, one by the Democratic Party and one by the Republican Party. The members in order are Marilyn Watts, Al DeMuth, and David Studdard. They generally meet the last Tuesday of each month.

This group sets the policies for the elections office to follow.

The State of Georgia has 10 modules that elections employees must eventually take. They are given at various times throughout the year, and at various places. Kennesaw State University has recently begun some of these classes.

There are 36 voting precincts, called live precincts, number 37, which is the elections office itself, handles the advanced voting, (those who come in to vote early and soldiers votes from overseas), and number 38, which is the provisional voting, (those votes who are in question for any reason and must be investigated).

On election day, there are 350 workers in the polls, one serves as the manager, one serves as the assistant manager, and then the 6 or 10 poll workers in addition. The payroll for a general election in the county is about $50,000.

Sawyer said that you must be 16 to work in a polling place, and must live in the county. He said he receives a lot of help from the home schoolers who fit this description.

The county has 318 touch screen voting machines. Before each election, the manufacturer, Diebold, sends three of its technicians to test each machine. Then on election day, there is a Diebold tech who stays in the county - just in case.

There are three tally machines in the election office, which tallies the vote using a small device brought in by each poll with that poll's total numbers on it. It is connected to the computer that sends the information directly in to the Secretary of State's office.

The county has 64,308 registered voters. The current county population is approximately 104,000 persons.

Sawyer said he has a three-prong long-range goal: to add one, if not two, additional advanced polling sites, to have on staff county voting machines technicians, and to change the perimeters of the current 36 live voting sites. Due to new persons moving into the county, some of the sites have too many voters within it, while others do not have nearly enough.

And did you know? If you are coming from Atlanta, for instance, and get stuck in heavy traffic on election day and live in Brooks, and you realize you can't make it to Brooks in time to vote, you can vote in Kenwood or Fayetteville, for instance, as long as it's less than an hour to poll closing.

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