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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:30am

UPDATE: Voters Hit Polls Tuesday

Polling stations statewide reported seeing a stream of voters casting ballots in local, state, and federal elections.

Georgia's secretary of state has decided that a candidate running unopposed in Tuesday's Republican primary does not meet residency requirements for the state senate race.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Tuesday morning issued the decision regarding candidate Benjamin Brooks in Senate District 35. The district includes parts of Fulton and Douglas counties southwest of Atlanta.

Kemp said that because there's no time to strike Brooks' name from ballots, notices would be placed at polling sites in the district advising voters of the disqualification. Kemp said any votes cast for Brooks would be void and not counted.

Georgia Republican Party spokesman Chris Kelleher said the GOP will not be able to replace Brooks, meaning there will not be a Republican candidate in the general election in state Senate District 35.

Voters across Georgia will decide Tuesday whether to levy a penny sales tax to fund transportation projects in their communities.

Supporters have spent $8 million trying to convince voters the plan will add jobs, ease congestion and improve their quality of life. Critics blast the plan as not only the heftiest tax proposal in state history, but as a false strategy that addresses neither sprawl nor smart growth.

A dozen regions will each hold their own votes on the referendum. If approved by a region's voters, money generated by the tax would be spent on projects in that region. Regions that do not pass the referendum get nothing.

If passed in all 12 regions, the tax would generate more than $18 billion to pay for projects over the next decade.

Meanwhile, challengers in the Republican primary are attempting to unseat two incumbents on Georgia's Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

Republican Pam Davidson, an energy consultant, is attempting to unseat Stan Wise, who has served on the commission since 1995.

The primary election on Tuesday will effectively decide the race since no Democratic candidate has qualified for November's general election. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Matt Reid is challenging incumbent Chuck Eaton in the GOP primary. The winner will face Democratic candidate Stephen Oppenheimer in November. Oppenheimer is running unopposed in the primary.

The commission decides issues worth millions and even billions of dollars to the gas, electric and telephone utilities.

Georgia voters who head to the polls Tuesday are making their views known on whether they want to place a cap on lobbyist spending.

That issue is one of several nonbinding questions on Tuesday's primary ballot. The outcome won't change state law, but it gives politicians a rough measure of the public's views.

Both the Republican and Democratic ballots ask whether Georgians want to cap or limit lobbyist spending. Similar measures failed this year in the General Assembly, but proponents say a strong showing Tuesday may change minds at the Capitol.

House Speaker David Ralston has said that a lobbyist spending cap would drive the practice underground.

Others GOP ballot questions ask whether voters want to tighten abortion restrictions, expand gambling and allow military members under 21 to carry firearms.