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Latino voters will go to area polls in record numbers
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Last day of advance voting could be crowded

Log on for our Voters Guide, which provides key information you need, plus a link to sample ballots. On Election Day, check back throughout the day for updates on voting traffic at local polls and all night long for election results as they come in.

As Election Day rolls closer and the margin between presidential candidates narrows, the selection of the next U.S. president could be decided by just a few percentage points.

And as politicians continue to court undecided voters, some groups say candidates may want to focus more on the Latino community.

"The number of Latino voters hasn’t gone steadily up — it has grown at an astounding rate unlike other ethnic groups," said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

According to a report released by the organization, the number of registered Latino voters has increased tremendously over the past five years.

In Hall County alone, the number of registered Latino voters increased from 468 in 2003 to 3,239 in 2008, which is a 592 percent increase, the organization reported.

Of the surrounding counties, Jackson County has experienced the largest percentage increase in Latino voters. Although Jackson only has 374 registered Latino voters, that is still a 1,068 percent increase from 2003.

"Latinos are a part of Georgia’s fabric, and they want to engage in the political process," Gonzalez said.

While there are many reasons why the number of Latino voters has increased, Gonzalez says several top issues are driving the Latino community to the polls.

"The main issues of concern are issues with the economy, health care and education, which are the top issues that any voter is concerned about. Other issues of concern are the war in Iraq and immigration reform," he said. "Plus the nasty tone that immigration reform has taken in Georgia has motivated many Latinos to vote."

According to Georgia’s secretary of state Web site, Latinos make up 2 percent of Georgia’s overall 4.9 million voter population. By comparison, the overwhelming majority of Georgia voters, 63 percent, are white. Black voters make up 29 percent of Georgia’s voters, while Asian and Native Americans create another combined 1 percent of the total Georgia voter population.

"We want to encourage everyone to go to the polls either during advanced voting or on Nov. 4," he said. "If you encounter any problems, you can call our toll free number at 888-544-2536 for assistance.

"We want to make sure that all eligible voters are able to exercise their right to vote."

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