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Voter turnout in Hall County higher than expected

POSTED: May 12, 2010 12:23 a.m.

Precinct leaders saw a slow trickle of voters roll into Northeast Georgia polling places Tuesday to vote for open seats in the 9th District U.S. House and the state Senate District 49.

“It was a mostly steady trickle,” Pam Cherry, poll manager for the Gainesville Masonic Lodge precinct, said an hour before polls closed.

“It wasn’t as good as we hoped for because we usually have a big, big turnout, but it’s been pleasant.”

Hall County precincts pulled in 14,087 votes — 18.5 percent of registered voters and higher than the 11 percent predicted by the Hall County Elections Department. Cherry reported no problems at the polls and said most voters seemed to make quick decisions.

“For the most part, everyone has been in and out,” she said. “Why not vote if it’s going to be that quick?”

Across town at the Gainesville Civic Center precinct, poll manager Tom Durrett saw a “pretty good turnout.”

In the first two hours of voting, the precinct pulled in 56 votes, and by the end of the day, reached 378 votes.

“I’m pleased we got as many as we did,” he said, packing up voting machines as soon as polls closed. “We’re well organized and almost wrapped up here.”

Durrett said the only confusion he noticed at the polls were voters who were unsure where city and county voting takes place.

Shannon Babcock, a Gainesville resident, said she showed up at her precinct for a special election that “some people don’t even know about.”

“This is a really important election because we’re at a critical place right now,” she said. “Everything counts.”

For Russell Fuller, another Gainesville resident, his vote was for much more than a friend he’s known since childhood.

“We’ve got to make a change somehow,” he said. “We have to take a stand for jobs, for one thing. And there’s just too much politics.”

Most Hall County precincts pulled in between 10 percent and 20 percent of registered voters through poll and absentee votes, but three areas brought in more than 30 percent. The West Whelchel precinct voting at First United Methodist Church in Gainesville saw 1,162 votes, or 36.8 percent; Gainesville I at the Gainesville Civic Center reported 463 votes, or 32.2 percent; and Morgan III precinct at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Gainesville showed 456 votes, or 30.2 percent. The Gainesville II precinct at Fair Street Neighborhood Center precinct reported the lowest percentage of votes at 50 ballots cast, or 2.57 percent of registered voters.

In Dawson County, the only reported problems came from voters who didn’t know which precincts to use. The voter turnout was reported at 10 percent, about what election supervisor Glenda Ferguson predicted.

“I haven’t heard a lot of feedback about this election,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure myself who to vote for, and you usually hear people going on and on.”

With only one precinct left to report at 8:30 Tuesday night, Union County pulled in 1,957 of its 13,000 voters.

“It’s a pretty small percentage, but what we expected,” election supervisor Ruth Ann Miner said. “Leading up to this, I didn’t hear any passion whatsoever about issues or candidates. A passionless election.”

Despite the low turnout for all precincts, Gainesville resident Kellie Sellers said it’s important to her to vote in every election, “no matter how big.”

“People think the big federal elections are the most important, but they forget the things that affect us most happen locally,” she said. “You research the issues and the people and vote with the hope that they’ll follow through.”



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