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4,000 in Hall County have already cast votes
New registrations, early voters have elections office scrambling
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Voters cast their ballots during early voting Friday at the Hall County Elections and Voter Registration Office. People can vote early at the Browns Bridge office through Oct. 31. - photo by Tom Reed

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Hall County Elections and Voter Registration Office

Address: 2285 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Early voting hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

Continues through: Oct. 31

Click here for a guide for the election season

More than 4,000 people have voted in Hall County since early voting began Sept. 19, according to the Hall County Elections and Voter Registration Office.

Nearly 3,900 people had voted through Thursday, and as of around 2 p.m. Friday, some 300 more had cast their vote at the elections office on Browns Bridge Road, according to Hall County's interim elections director Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter.

Across Georgia, some 223,000 people have voted early this year. More than 72,000 of the votes have come from the metro Atlanta counties of Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett.

Interest in this year's presidential election is very high here, said Sosebee-Hunter, who added that about 3,800 people have registered to vote between July 15 and Wednesday. The office has been averaging 400 voters every day, and most times all 14 voting stations are in use, she said.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday.

Due to the high early voting numbers, Sosebee-Hunter predicts Hall County could have a record 89 percent turnout for the Nov. 4 general election. The previous record turnout was 81 percent, which happened during the 2004 presidential election.

That kind of turnout could mean that people are still waiting in line to vote when polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. Sosebee-Hunter stressed that anyone who is in line at 7 p.m. on Election Day will be allowed to vote.

"I think we're going to have a huge number of voters on Nov. 4 or even leading up to Nov. 4," she said. "I think people are very interested in this election."

Sosebee-Hunter said her office has been inundated both with people voting early and registering to vote. But she’s excited to see so many people interested in the political process.

"I love it," she said on a busy Friday afternoon. "It lets us know our work is not in vain in what we’ve prepared for."

She added that early turnout has spiked after both the Sept. 26 presidential debate and Thursday night’s vice presidential debate with a "major spike" on Friday.

"From the looks of it, it seems that people are watching the debates and are making decisions based on the debates and are making the decision to go ahead and cast their ballots early," Sosebee-Hunter said.

She is strongly encouraging people to vote early.

Republican Sen. John McCain’s campaign said it was encouraged by the early voting turnout in Georgia.

"This year is going to generate a historic volume of voters," said McCain spokesman Mario Diaz. "It’s encouraging to know that in Georgia most of them will be cast for John McCain. We anticipate the support to only intensify by Election Day."

But 39 percent of Georgia’s 223,000 early voters are black, according to Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office, which could help Sen. Barack Obama. Figures from Oct. 1 show blacks make up 29 percent of the 5.6 million registered voters in the state.

Caroline Adelman, a spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign, said the campaign has been urging voters who want to avoid lengthy lines on Nov. 4 to cast their ballots early.

"I hesitate to read too much into the racial background," she said. "But it’s exciting that so many people are voting early. We think that a large voter turnout always benefits the Democratic Party — and the country as a whole."

Georgia is required by the Voting Rights Act to request the race and gender of all voters upon registration. However, voters are not required to report their information. Sosebee-Hunter did not have information on race or gender for Hall County’s early voters.

Early voting, including the week of advance voting that begins Oct. 27, will continue through Oct. 31. The Hall County Elections and Voter Registration Office, located at 2285 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville, is open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Probably the best time to vote is before 10 a.m., which is when the office starts to get busy, Sosebee-Hunter said. But there haven’t been any long lines and the process has moved steadily, she added.

People also can register to vote at the office during the same hours.

Because Monday is the deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 4 general election, Sosebee-Hunter said she expects to be inundated with people registering.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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