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Hall elections officials are making preparations for today's vote
Jerry Hill, right, delivers ballots to the Hall County Elections and Voting Registration Office Monday as Dereck L. Stephens, an assistant from Gainesville, signs off on the delivery. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Despite the last-minute preparations taking place before Election Day, the atmosphere at the Hall County elections office on Monday was quiet and relaxed.

Last week, people filled the office waiting in line to vote early. But on Monday, just election supplies were there, waiting to be picked up by precinct managers.

The supplies were set up into 39 neat little bundles, one for each precinct in Hall County. Included in each is luggage, "Vote Here" signs, paperwork, a box of office supplies and a cell phone to reach the office.

"The voting machines are delivered by a delivery company," said Interim Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter.

Sosebee-Hunter was at the office Monday doing a number of things, including payroll and taking calls about setting up voting precincts.

"It’s a day for dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s," said Sosebee-Hunter of the quiet day of preparation.

Dereck L. Stephens, an assistant in the elections office, sat at a desk, surrounded by piles of yellow envelopes, organizing absentee ballots. About 3,000 had arrived at the office Monday, and Stephens said many more likely will arrive by the end of today.

"We get all the absentee ballots that come in from the post office," Stephens said. "We put them in precincts. Each envelope has a precinct number. Once we sort those by precinct numbers, we’re going to go back and put them in alphabetical order by names."

There are about 400 poll workers this year. Sosebee-Hunter said there are typically only about 330 poll workers, but because there is so much interest in this year’s election, more poll workers were needed to keep up with the high number of voters.

This year, Hall County residents had the option to vote early for more than a month, and about 34,000 chose to do so, Sosebee-Hunter said.

But despite those numbers, she predicts bustling precincts Tuesday.

"I don’t think it will be crazy but I do think they will have lines," Sosebee-Hunter said, pointing out that about 51,000 registered voters have yet to cast their ballots.

And though voting ends tonight, Sosebee-Hunter said her work is far from done.

"I have to perform a process that we refer to as canvassing and computation; that’s our consolidation process" she said. "I make sure all the paperwork is ready to be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office, and that gives us time to sort through our provisional ballots and just get a compiled official total for Hall County. And that should be ready by mid-Friday."

Other elections workers agreed that Monday was the quiet before the storm, and expect today to be very long and busy.

Area managers, such as Valarie Richardson, are available to go out to the precincts to check that everything is going smoothly and help out with any problems.

"Tomorrow I’ll be leaving the house at 5 a.m.," Richardson said Monday. "We stay until everyone of the precincts comes in."

Richardson said she will not only be taking calls from precincts, but is ready for calls from media outlets looking for information on who the winners are.

Precinct Manager Gwen Margaritondo said she was just running errands in anticipation of the big day.

She said she was spending Monday picking up election supplies, going to the bank, and ordering food for poll workers.

"Tomorrow is the busiest day," Margaritondo said. "Today is making sure you have everything for tomorrow. Nothing is set up until 6 in the morning."

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