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Early voter turnout varies from county to county
Hall elections chief surprised at numbers so far
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Early voting for the Aug. 5 runoff election finished up Friday and some counties were taken off guard by the unexpected voter turnout.

Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter, Hall County's interim elections director, said she was surprised by the 1,100 voters who came out to the polls this week.

"It's kind of higher than I thought it would be," she said. "I think there's just a lot more interest in the clerk of court than we expected."

The Republican runoff for Hall County clerk of court is between Charles Baker and Jennifer Gibbs. Gibbs and Baker beat out Bob Vass in the July 15 primary to advance to a runoff.

Democrats Vernon Jones and Jim Martin are in a statewide runoff for the U.S. Senate. The winner will face Republican incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the fall.

Sosebee-Hunter said she did not forsee much of a turnout for early voting following the primary election's dismal voter turnout. Only 14.82 percent of Hall County voters showed up at the polls July 15, and Sosebee-Hunter thinks she will see about 8.5 percent for the runoff.

Though it is possible that the clerk of court race motivated people to get out and vote, Sosebee-Hunter said she thinks that people who voted in this election are regular voters.

"The people showing up to vote are the people who vote all the time," she said.

While Hall County had a relatively high turnout this week, less than 100 people voted early this week in some surrounding counties.

In Banks County, only 88 people came out to vote early in the runoff, which Probate Judge Betty Thomas linked to apathy. She also said it is likely that turnout was low because there were no runoffs in local races.

In Dawson County, where there also are no local runoffs on the ballot, only 25 people voted early all week, election officials said.

In sharp contrast was the turnout this week in Forsyth County. Chief Voter Registrar Gary Smith said about 450 people voted every day this week for a total of about 2,500 for the week.

Smith said he was only expecting about a quarter of the people who voted in the primary to return for the runoff, but has seen double the amount of voters he thought he would.

Post 5 of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is the local race he believes has captured people's attention.

"It could change the makeup of the board of commissioners," Smith said. "It's just gotten to be a very contentious race."

Habersham County, with three runoff races, had about 1,400 voters this week. Lumpkin County, with two local runoffs, had 648 people vote early and 155 people vote by mail.

Kimberly Pruitt, Lumpkin's supervisor of elections and chief registrar, said the 5.7 percent turnout for early voting this week was a little more than she had expected.

Jackson County had some 696 ballots cast during the early voting period for the two local runoff races there.

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