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Big turnout: 75 percent in Hall cast ballots
Total falls short of record set in 2004; crowds smaller than expected
Caiden Skakalski, left, watches as his father Norm votes. - photo by Tom Reed

More than half of those who cast ballots in this year's general election didn't do so on Election Day.

Interim Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter said a total of 60,202 of the county's 79,273 active registered voters cast ballots in the Nov. 4 general election. About 34,000 of those voting chose to cast their ballots early, according to Sosebee-Hunter, or more than half the final turnout.

She said 75.94 percent of Hall County voters came out to the polls this election cycle, short of the record. That's still above the typical turnout for a general election, which usually is about 69 percent.

The record turnout for Hall County was 81 percent in the 2004 presidential election, she said. She attributes the higher turnout in that election with having more contested local races on the ballot than this year's.

Sosebee-Hunter said this year's turnout was lower than she had expected, as she had predicted an 89 percent turnout.

Precinct managers throughout Hall County saw much lighter crowds than they expected at the polls Tuesday.

Most reported that the largest crowds came out first thing Tuesday morning between 7 and 9.

"(Tuesday) morning they were lined up around the corner," said Georgia Mountain Center precinct manager Pat Rail.

Most think the number of people who took advantage of early voting affected the numbers on Election Day.

"If it had not been for the early voting, we'd have been a lot more busy," Rail said.

Jack Ferguson, assistant poll manager at the Gainesville Civic Center, said he was surprised there weren't more voters who had to wait in line.

"We were really expecting more of a crowd," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he saw a steady stream of voters at his precinct until about 11 a.m. Tuesday, but crowds tapered off throughout the rest of the day. Precincts typically see a spike in voters in the morning and again after 5 p.m. when most people leave work.

But Ferguson said he never saw the after-work crowd.

"I was expecting a rush at 5 but that didn't materialize," Ferguson said.

Elections officials in other Northeast Georgia counties reported similar turnouts on Tuesday, with Probate Judge Garrison Baker, who oversees elections in White County, reporting he, too saw a strong turnout in the morning dwindle as the day wore on. White County ended up with about 77 percent turnout before a handful of provisional ballots were counted.

Hall County had few election problems, including a report of and Express Poll machines, or computers that check voter identities, breaking down at the Bark Camp precinct at Northlake Baptist Church, according to poll officials.

Statewide, early voting apparently relieved the crush of voters descending on Georgia's more than 3,000 polling precincts Tuesday. More than 2 million people voted early, accounting for 36 percent of Georgia's 5.6 million electorate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.