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Hundreds take opportunity to vote early in presidential primary
George and Ernestean Smith vote Monday at the Hall County elections office. Monday was the first day of early voting for the Feb. 5 presidential primary. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Monday marked the first day Georgia voters could cast advanced ballots for the presidential primary, and election offices in Hall and surrounding counties reported an ample turnout for the day.

Although Super Tuesday is still one week away, Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter, interim director of elections for Hall County, said 303 Hall County voters cast their ballots for Georgia’s presidential primary at the election office on Browns Bridge Road.

Since the 2004 presidential primary, voters in Hall County have had the option to submit ballots during the week prior to the Tuesday election. The Hall County elections office is open to voters from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday. Any voter registered in Hall County may vote this week at the Browns Bridge Road election office.

"We’ve had a steady flow coming in," Sosebee-Hunter said. "We expect to have close to 3,000 voters this week."

Sosebee-Hunter said that of the 77,853 registered voters in Hall County, she expects about 30 percent to participate in the presidential primary on Feb. 5.

That expected voter turnout is higher than the 27.5 percent turnout of registered voters in Hall County who cast ballots in the 2004 primary election.

Surrounding counties also reported a substantial turnout for the first day of advanced voting.

Lisa Manning, the chief registrar for White County, said more than 70 White County residents arrived to the polls for early voting Monday.

"We’ve been pretty steady since 8 o’clock (Monday) morning. It’s been going pretty smooth," Manning said.

She added that she also sent out about 200 absentee ballots to White County voters, 75 of which already have been returned. Manning said she expects anywhere from 300 to 500 early voters this week.

Election officials in Lumpkin and Jackson counties said turnout for the first day of early voting exceeded their predictions. They credit the additional referendums on ballots in both counties as the reason for high voter turnout.

In Lumpkin County, there is a distilled spirits referendum on the ballot that asks voters to consider allowing establishments located outside Dahlonega city limits to sell liquor by the drink and to allow on-premise consumption.

Kimberly Pruitt, supervisor of elections and registrar for Lumpkin County, said 93 voters participated in early voting Monday, and she expects many more throughout the week.

"We’re always very busy for advanced voting. So many prefer to avoid the big lines and crowds," Pruitt said.

Pruitt added the liquor referendum is a "pretty divisive" issue in Lumpkin County, and she said she expects as much as 75 percent of Lumpkin County’s 14,521 registered voters to arrive at the polls a week from today.

Brenda Fulcher, supervisor of registration for Jackson County, said more than 130 Jackson County voters, more than expected, participated in early voting Monday. In addition to casting a vote for the presidential primary, Jackson County voters are asked to consider two referendums this election.

The most controversial item is a liquor referendum that proposes the Sunday sale of distilled spirits and alcoholic beverages by the drink in Jackson County. The second referendum asks voters to approve a $15 million park and recreation facilities bond for the Jackson County Recreation Department.

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