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Runoff, primary overlap may cause confusion for voters

POSTED: May 16, 2010 10:44 p.m.

Color this election season confusing.

A runoff election to decide which Republican will represent Georgia’s 9th District in the U.S. House until the end of the year is scheduled for June 8.

Yet early voting for statewide party primaries — including for the full term that begins January in the same U.S. House seat — begins the day before.

And though some local elections officials in the 9th District say they haven’t ever dealt with overlapping election seasons before, they say they have plans on how to handle this one.

“We’re going to have to be very creative,” said Charlotte Sosebee, interim elections superintendent for Hall County, one of the biggest population centers of the 15-county district.

The timing of the two elections means that on the day of the runoff between former state lawmakers Lee Hawkins and Tom Graves, the Hall County Elections Office also will be open to early voters seeking to cast their ballots in July’s party primary. The primary will decide which candidates will move on to represent the Republican and Democratic parties in November’s general election.

But Sosebee said on normal election days, when there aren’t two overlapping elections, voters show up at the county elections office, “out of habit,” thinking they can vote there.

While voters can vote early at the county elections office, on Election Day they must vote at the precinct near their homes, Sosebee said.

But with voters casting ballots in the June 8 runoff along with casting a vote in the primary for a full term for that seat, Sosebee said there could be some confusion.

“Everybody’s going to have to be very specific when they vote the next couple of times,” Sosebee said.

Elections officials in Forsyth County, another population center in the district, also are planning to avert possible confusion there, Elections Supervisor Barbara Luth said.

Luth said she will be an extra crew working on early voting for the primary while other staff gets ready for election returns to come in June 8.

It likely will cost a little more to keep the confusion down, but Luth said the help of county volunteers will keep costs down.

Luth said she’s been discussing logistics “since we found out there was going to be an election with eight people.”

A special election last week to complete the final months of former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s term had eight candidates on the ballot, forcing the need for the June 8 runoff between Hawkins and Graves.

“Prior planning’s always better,” Luth said.


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