Turnout for early voting has increased steadily all week across Northeast Georgia, and elections officials expect a big crunch of people to cast ballots today, the last chance people have to vote ahead of Election Day on Tuesday.
In Hall County, the Elections and Voter Registration Office has been spared from the furlough that keeps other county offices closed today. Voters will be able to cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Hall County Elections Office, located at 2285 Browns Bridge Road. The county commission, which ordered the furlough to cut employee costs, exempted the elections office.
Charlotte Sosebee-Hunter, Hall County’s interim elections director, expects today’s turnout to top the 1,900 the office has been averaging all this week.
At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the line of people waiting to vote at the Hall County Elections and Voter Registration Office stretched out the door, along the side of the building and all the way to the end of the shopping center on Browns Bridge Road. Inside, a couple dozen more people stood in line and another 40 people sat in chairs waiting for their turn to vote. By 5:30 p.m., some 30 minutes after the office had closed for the day, the line had shortened to just those waiting inside.
Through the end of Wednesday, 23,463 people had voted in early and advance voting, and 3,084 paper absentee ballots had been returned, according to Sosebee-Hunter.
Turnout for early voting has been similar for surrounding counties. Lisa Manning, chief registrar for White County, said there have been an average of about 550 voters per day this week. She said a little more than 4,000 of the county’s 15,000 registered voters had cast ballots as of Wednesday, accounting for just short of 34 percent turnout. Even with seven local ballot questions to consider, Manning said the wait hasn’t been very long, but she expects a large number of people to vote today.
"I believe that we will have a pretty good amount, but we’re ready for it," Manning said, echoing the sentiments of voting officials in other counties.
Turnout in surrounding counties includes:
Banks County has been averaging about 225 voters per day all week and has had 1,896 people vote in person through noon Thursday, according to Fred Wendt, a Banks County voting registrar. In addition, some 585 absentee ballots have been mailed out.
Dawson County has recorded some 5,300 people voting early, accounting for 36 percent of the voting public, according to Glenda Ferguson, chief registrar. She predicts that when all the early votes and mail-in absentee ballots are tallied, anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 people will have voted prior to Election Day.
Forsyth County’s five early voting locations have tallied 36,926 voters out of the county’s 100,511 registered voters through Wednesday, according to Director of Elections Gary Smith.
Habersham County, which also has multiple voting locations, has had 3,576 voters at the courthouse through Wednesday and 3,050 voters through Thursday at the Ruby Fulbright Aquatic Center, according to election officials. Chief Registrar Laurel Adams said she expects about half of the county’s some 20,000 active voters to cast ballots before Election Day.
The three voting locations at Jackson County have been busy, too, with more than 10 percent of the registered voters already having voted. Early voting is offered at the municipal building at 5040 Ga. 53, Braselton, the administrative building at 67 Athens St., Jefferson; and 204 Carson St., Commerce.
Lumpkin County is nearing 34 percent turnout, with 4,987 of the 14,766 active registered voters having voted.