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Early voting gets off to slow start

POSTED: April 29, 2014 12:31 a.m.

Early voter Clyde Wilson waits before casting his ballot.

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The first day of early voting for the May 20 primary election got off to a slow start in Hall County on Monday morning before picking up slightly in the afternoon.

Less than 10 voters had cast ballots at the Hall County Government Center by 10 a.m., but that figure jumped to more than 60 by 1 p.m. and topped out at 95 just before the end of the day, according to Director of Elections Charlotte Sosebee.

There are about 95,000 registered voters in Hall County.

Of the 95 voters Monday, 84 requested Republican primary ballots, a reflection of the political constituency that calls Hall County home. And voters were more than likely to be senior citizens and retirees.

Jack Chapman, a physician who lives in North Hall, was one of these Republican voters. He said he was most interested in the governor’s race, and happily cast his vote for incumbent Nathan Deal.

Chapman said Deal’s primary opponents, state schools Superintendent John Barge and former Dalton Mayor David Pennington, had run strong campaigns and made the race an even clearer choice between Democrats and Republicans.

“I’m glad to see they are participating,” he added.

Voter turnout and enthusiasm typically lags in nonpresidential election years, and there was evidence this might be the case during early voting Monday.

Many voters said there were no campaigns or issues of particular interest or motivation.

While there are many high-profile contests, such as the governor’s race and the battle for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, many voters said they simply wanted to exercise their right to vote.

Hall County resident Ruth Jones, for example, called voting her “duty, privilege and responsibility.”

Her husband, Terry, echoed these sentiments. He said he has voted in every election since he registered at the age of 18, some four decades ago.

Other voters simply wanted to take advantage of the ease of access early voting offers.

Dolores B., who didn’t want to give her last name, stopped by the elections office for poll worker training — she brings with her nine years of experience on the job — and decided to go ahead and vote while she was at it.

“They make it as easy as possible,” she said of the process.

Of course, some voters remain undecided, and that might also explain why turnout was light on the first day of early voting.

For example, one elder voter, who declined to give his name, said he stopped by for a sample ballot to familiarize himself with the races and issues prior to casting his ballot later this week.

Several former and current elected officials showed up to vote, including 9th District U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and former Hall County Sheriff Bob Vass.

Vass made his way to one of the 13 voting machines available shortly after lunch. He said the process ran smooth — no hiccups with the machines, no waiting in line — and encouraged local residents to get out to the polls early.

“I think everybody ought to vote each and every time,” he said.

Sosebee said she expects turnout to ramp up between now and the final day of early voting, May 16.


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