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Voter turnout less than expected in primary
Leslie Johnson fills out a ballot Tuesday morning at the Gainesville IV precinct at the Georgia Mountains Center. - photo by Tom Reed

When voters came out to the Hall County polls Tuesday, few had to wait in line for long to make their voices heard as voter turnout in the area was lower than expected, election officials said.

In Hall County, 28.2 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the primary.

"I am kind of disappointed, but I kind of had an idea that it would be low based on our early voting totals," Hall County Interim Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said.

Though Sosebee said turnout has increased since the 2006 governor's primary, she was initially expecting turnout numbers around 45 percent.

"I do hope that the voters are not bored, because Hall County has had two elections this year," she said. "So I hope they're not bored with voting."

As polls closed Tuesday, the voting machines at Gainesville's Masonic Lodge were busy. Voters hurried to cast a ballot just before the 7 p.m. deadline.

Earlier in the day, though, the precinct saw a slow but steady flow.

"We always hope for more because there's a lot registered at this particular precinct, but we never know," poll manager Pam Cherry said. "We can't say that just nobody bothers to show up because we never know how many people vote early or do absentee."

At Lakewood Baptist Church, Angus Ferguson, 20, waited to cast his vote, thankful he could vote in person for this election.

"I've been at school, so I haven't been able to vote because I had to do the absentee ballot and stuff like that," he said. "But this summer it's been my first time to get into the whole voting thing."

At the Gainesville Civic Center, poll manager Tom Durrett wasn't excited about the day's turnout.

By 6:15 p.m. the location had slightly more than 400 voters.

"I expected us to be busy as it goes down toward 7 o'clock. And we have been busy, but I'm still a little disappointed. I don't know why they're not doing it," Durrett said. "I just expected a little bit better for my precinct."

He said the numbers were better than the special election in June, though.

Blondine Summerour, poll manager at Fair Street Neighborhood Center, said the same was true of her precinct.

"It's better than the last election, much better," Summerour said. "So, I'm pleased, but it could be better. In November, we should have a large turnout."

By 6:30 p.m., Summerour had seen 210 voters, and she said she expected about 20 more before the polls closed.
A few residents brought their kids along throughout the day for a quick lesson in civic responsibility.

Danny Dobbins, who was voting at the Georgia Mountains Center, let his 8-year-old son stand next to him at the voting machine.

He said he hoped experiencing voting would help the child in the future.

"If he sees what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, maybe that will help the younger generation to vote," Dobbins said. "When he goes to school, maybe he'll tell his friends that he went with his dad to go vote. As these kids get older, maybe they'll see that they need to vote and that it's important."

Carolyn Mitchell brought her three sons, ages 8, 7 and 4, to the Gainesville Civic Center.

"I think it's important we express ourselves and let the federal government know we are not going to stand idly by and let them change our country from its inherent original beliefs," Mitchell said.

For the Rev. Charles Dickey coming out to the polls is a responsibility he's glad to undertake.

"As a retired vet, it's important that we exercise our right to vote," Dickey said. "It's a privilege, and we must take advantage of it, whether its a primary or even if it's for the dog catcher. You should always exercise your right to vote."

Turnout in other Northeast Georgia counties was mixed.

Banks County saw 34.9 percent voter turnout, and Dawson County reported 35.27 percent.

"We were very pleased with our turnout," said Glenda Ferguson, Dawson County elections supervisor. "Today has been a very busy day."

In Lumpkin County, 26.75 percent came out to the polls, which elections supervisor Kimberly Pruitt said was no surprise.

Sue Sneed, poll manager for Gainesville's Lakewood Baptist Church location, said she couldn't understand the low voter turnout.

"To me it's a privilege and a freedom that we have," Sneed said. "And I don't know why people don't understand that."

Staff writer Stephen Gurr contributed to this report