Slow start to early voting on Atlanta bonds

ATLANTA -- Only 277 people cast ballots in the first eight days of early voting ahead of the March 17th special election for Atlanta's infrastructure bonds.

Voters are deciding whether to approve the issuance of two bonds totaling $252 million to tackle a $1 billion backlog of road, bridge and sidewalk repairs.

"Only a certain subset of the population is going to turnout," said Emory University Political Science Professor Andra Gillespie. "That group is most attuned to political issues and follows them voraciously."

Gillespie said the timing of the March bond vote is key.

"Pretty much by design, this election is going to generate a low, very low voter turnout," she said. "If they put this on the ballot in November for a regular election, more people would turn out, and it might be harder to predict which way the votes going to go."

The bonds would be backed by tax dollars, but they don't involve a tax hike.

"We think people are going to support it in a powerful way because their taxes won't go up as a result," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told 11Alive.

A new group called Citizens for Better Infrastructure officially formed two weeks ago to start a city-wide campaign.

The group has a Twitter account and Facebook page but no radio, television or print ads yet.

"They have the benefit of the fact that this is not a hotly contested election, so they can get in late and help define an issue," Gillespie said.

There is no organized opposition group, but there are critics who want the city to produce a final list of projects before the vote. So far, the city has issued only a proposed list with 229 projects.

One final public information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 5th from 6 to 8 p.m. at the John C. Birdine Recreation Center in southwest Atlanta.

City leaders said they want to hear from as many people as possible before putting out a final project list.

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