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Election workers say they're ready for the crowds
Recent report predicts record numbers and potential problems at the polls
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Listen as Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter, interim director of elections for Hall County, talks about the importance of voters being prepared before they cast their ballots.

Election 2008 key dates

Now: Early absentee voting underway in Hall County

Friday: Presidential debate in Oxford, Miss.

Oct. 2: Vice presidential debate in St. Louis

Oct. 6: Deadline to register for general election

Oct. 7: Presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.

Oct. 15: Presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y.

Oct. 27: Start of advance voting period

Nov. 4; Election Day

Dec. 2: State runoff election, if needed



What IDs are acceptable?

You must show a photo ID when voting in person, those accepted include:

Any valid state or federal government-issued photo ID

A Georgia driver’s license, even if expired

Valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency or entity of the U.S. government, Georgia or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state

Valid U.S. passport ID

Valid U.S. military photo ID

Valid tribal photo ID

To register to vote or get more information, contact the Hall County Election Supervisor’s office: 2285 Browns Bridge Road, Suite 2; Post Office Drawer 1435; Gainesville, GA 30501-1435; 770-531-6945

Despite a recent report that predicts record voter turnout and potential problems for Georgia during the Nov. 4 election, local officials are confident they'll be able to handle it. 

"We have increased the number of paper (provisional) ballots, increased our number of (poll) workers," said Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter, interim director of elections for Hall County. "We purchased 15 more voting machines."

The nonpartisan think tank Common Cause has cited Georgia as one of the states where voters may experience difficulties at the polls. The group recommended that Georgia precincts should have more electronic voting machines and provisional ballots available.

A provisional ballot is given to people whose voter registration information can't be immediately verified. They are allowed to go ahead and vote, and officials can determine later whether the ballot can be counted.

Sosebee-Hunter said 81 percent of Hall's registered voters turned out for the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. "That's the highest I can remember," she said.

But considering the intense public interest in the race between the current candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, Sosebee-Hunter predicts Hall's turnout this year will be about 87 percent.

She said Hall has 73,955 active registered voters. But the total is about 80,000 if you include the "inactive" ones - those who are registered but have not voted in the past two election cycles. Some of them may be lured back to the polls this year because of the presidential race.

And many of those voters don't want to wait until Nov. 4.

"We're getting a lot of calls from people wanting to vote early," she said. "They just like being able to get it done and not having to worry about it again."

Georgia law now allows people to vote up to 45 days before an election, without having to give a reason.

"Officially, early voting starts Monday," said Sosebee-Hunter. "But we already got our ballots, so we went ahead and started."

At the elections headquarters at 2285 Browns Bridge Road, she said 15 machines have been set up for early voting. That's about twice as many as were available in previous years.

"Hopefully by Monday, we'll have sample (ballots) online," she said.

Whether they vote early or on Nov. 4, voters are being urged to study sample ballots so they can understand the choices and make their decisions before reaching the voting booth.

"If there is a line (on Election Day), we'll try to hand out sample ballots so people can go ahead and mark their sample while they're standing in line," said Sosebee-Hunter.

By the time they arrive at the polls, most people have a pretty good idea of which candidates they prefer. But they're often caught off guard by referendums and proposed amendments on the ballot. It's not unusual for people to stare at the ballot in bewilderment, trying to figure out exactly what it is they're voting for.

This year, Georgia residents will vote on three amendments to the state constitution. Gainesville residents also will decide on one referendum, and Hall residents will have two.

But in some counties, the ballot contains many more options. White County's 15,000 voters will have to decide on seven local referendums, according to elections superintendent Garrison Baker.

And there are some big-ticket items on White County's agenda: Whether to expand the county commission from three to five members; whether to establish zoning laws (or as it's worded on the ballot, "land-use planning"); and whether to allow beer and wine sales in the county.

"If everybody waited until election day to vote, we would have long lines," said Baker. "So we're really pushing the early voting and absentee voting."

Baker said he's been involved in White County elections for 26 years, and the highest turnout he's ever seen was about 70 percent.

"But this year, we're working on the assumption that we'll have 80 percent turnout, and we're trying to prepare our infrastructure for that," he said. "We're making sure our 11 precincts are set up properly to move people through."

Lisa Manning, chief registrar for White County, said people can also cut down on wait time by making sure their name is on the voter rolls.

"If you registered to vote when you got your driver's license, check with your registrar (before voting) to make sure it went through," she said. "Sometimes mistakes are made and we don't receive the information."

Manning explained that the voter applications have to travel through three agencies - from the Department of Driver Services to the Secretary of State's office and finally to the local registrar.

Also, Manning said if anyone has changed their personal information since the last time they voted, such as moving to a new address or getting married, they should re-register by the Oct. 6 deadline so there won't be any confusion on voting day.




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