VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The Lowndes County Board of Elections is preparing for the upcoming municipal election in November.
One of those elections includes the Valdosta mayoral race. The qualifying for that race doesn't happen until August 21 through August 25, but we already have two candidates making their intentions known that they're running for that race. Current Mayor Scott James Matheson is running for re-election and retired fire chief J.D. Rice is also running.
Municipal elections are known for having lower turnouts compared to federal and state elections.
According to Lowndes County Elections Supervisor, Deb Cox sometimes even just one vote can make a difference in municipal elections.
"Twice in Lowndes county we've had a dead tie and had to go to a runoff. Every vote counts. The smaller the turnout, the more those votes are valuable," said Cox.
The city of Valdosta has just under 85,000 registered voters. Cox says voter turnout depends on the stakes of each election. Though she says there's been an upward trend since 2018.
"When you see 50/50 democrat and republican, you're going to see a higher turnout because there's more contentiousness," said Cox.
While it's not clear how many people will turnout for this years municipal election. Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson is preparing to run for re-election. This time around he's not resting on his laurels.
"I get to stand on a four year record by the time we're voting in November. I've done it right or I've done it wrong, there's not a whole lot I can say in a four month period to change peoples minds on that. I hope I've done a good job and I hope to serve," said Matheson.
Some of that record includes starting the Valdosta on-demand transit service, opening Unity Park, and hosting the inaugural Bluesberry Festival. Mayor Matheson is hoping to continue that work for another four years.
"It makes you want to continue that work, and we have a lot of unfinished projects," he said.
J.D. Rice announced his intentions to run for mayor in the upcoming election at the end of June. Rice retired as fire chief from the department in 2013. He encourages everyone to come out and vote in November.
"Yes I want folks to vote for me but I want folks to participate in the process because it's important we participate," said Rice. "That way we can have a candidate that can move our city forward."
Rice says his biggest focus if he gets elected is addressing crime, among other things.
"We got to focus on the homeless population, there are over 1,000 people that are homeless in Valdosta. We also have to focus on getting good paying jobs here in Valdosta," said Rice.
With the upcoming municipal election, Cox says they expect a lower turnout, but they do try to encourage the younger generation to vote by going to the schools directly and teaching them how voting works.
"Your tax money, you're turning it over to the government they're going to take part of it and spend it. You need to tell them how you want it spent," said Cox. "Do you want it spent on parks or law enforcement or neighborhood watch groups? How do you want your money spent? It's your money."
Of course it's one thing to say you're running and it's another thing to actually be on the ballot. We won't know who's officially on the ballot until the end of that qualifying period on August 25.
If you want to make sure you vote in this election all you have to do is make sure you're registered 30 days before the election happens on November 7.