Saturday, July 29, 2023

Georgia Secretary Of State And Georgia Department Of Transportation Take Actions Affecting Oconee County

***Voter List, Bridge Posting***

Decisions by the Georgia Secretary of State Office and by the Georgia Department of Transportation last week have had reverberations in Oconee County.

Secretary Of State Brad Raffensperger announced on July 18 that he was sending a mailed notice to 677 registered Oconee County voters who have been on “inactive” status for two general elections and have failed to update their voting records within that time.

The voters will be removed from the county’s voter list if they do not respond to the mailed notice.

The Georgia Department of Transportation informed Oconee County the bridge over McNutt Creek on Mars Hill Road between U.S. 78 and SR 316 does not meet the increased weight limit set by the legislature in House Bill 189.

The bill increases the maximum weight of some trucks on Georgia highways for two years.

Even without the increased weight allowed by House Bill 189, four other bridges in the county that are posted as not meeting weight limits.

These are on Malcom Bridge Road at Barber Creek, at Elder Mill Road at Rose Creek, at Clotfelter Road at Barber Creek, and on Branch Road at Freeman Creek.

The bridge on Elder Mill Road at Rose Creek is the iconic covered bridge in the south of the county.

Raffensperger Announcement

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on July 18 that 191,473 voters across the state previously placed into “inactive status” will be removed from the voter lists unless they respond to a mailed notice from his office within 30 days of receipt of the letter.

Mars Hill At McNutt Creek

Raffensperger said he is performing “routine and legally required updates to Georgia’s voter records as part of the non-election year list-maintenance process.”

“Georgia law specifically provides for the removal of voter registration records that have been in an “inactive” status for two general elections and have failed to update their records within that time,” he said.

The state has 7,919,203 registered voters, and the 191,473 challenged voters represents 2.4 percent of that total.

Oconee County had 33,220 registered voters as of June 30, Sharon Gregg, Oconee County Director of Elections and Registration, said in an email message on July 21.

The 677 Oconee County voters who received the letters from Raffensperger represent 2.0 percent of the registered voters in the county.

A majority of the 677 (371, or 54.8 percent) were labeled as eligible for challenge because mail sent to them had been returned undelivered, an analysis of the voter list shows.

The remainder are on the list because the National Change of Address (NCOA) system identified the voters as having changed her or his address.

Transportation Board Meeting

Andrew Heath, Deputy Chief Engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), told the State Transportation Board on July 19 that, because of passage of House Bill 189, it will be necessary to post 733 additional bridges throughout the state.

Prior to passage of the bill, he said, it was necessary to post 1,363 bridges as unable to handle allowed weights of trucks, he said. Heath said the state has about 15,000 bridges.

House Bill 189 allows a 10 percent variance on gross vehicle weight and axle weights up to 88,000 on trucks carrying a list of commodities, including forest products, live poultry, poultry waste, cotton, and “agricultural or farm products.”

The variance expires on July 1, 2025, and Heath told the Transportation Board Committee of the Whole that “We do expect this discussion to continue in upcoming legislative sessions.”

House Bill 189 was controversial, and Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell spoke out against it.

All three of Oconee County’s legislators–Sen. Bill Cowsert, Rep. Houston Gaines, and Rep. Marcus Wiedower--voted in favor of the final bill.

Oconee County Administrator Justin Kirouac told me in an email message on July 20 that GDOT “has identified one bridge in need of reposting - Mars Hill between 78 and 316.”

“It has already been reposted,” he wrote.

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