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Voters begin casting ballots
Candidates look to fill former Rep. Nathan Deals seat
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2010 Elections Guide 

Your opinion counts: What issues matter?

Voters in Northeast Georgia are heading to the polls to cast the first of what could be several election ballots over the coming months.
As we enter the election season, The Times wants to know what issues matter most to voters in our area. The candidates have their ideas and plans, but what do you care about most? Is it the economy and jobs? Taxes and government spending? National security? And how would you like your elected officials to address those chief concerns?
We would like you to send us, in your words, a short letter expressing your views on the top issue in this election. Please limit it to 150 words, and include your full name, hometown and a contact phone number. The Times will publish a sampling of the best submissions in an upcoming edition previewing the election. We also may contact some of you for an accompanying story.
You can send your submissions by e-mail (preferred) to (please put “issues” in the subject line); by fax to 770-532-0457; or by mail to The Times, P.O. Box 838, Gainesville, GA 30503.

Already, at least 430 ballots have been cast in the 9th District U.S. House race.

With the special election to fill former Rep. Nathan Deal’s seat a little more than three weeks away, the seven candidates remaining in the race have little time to get their names out in the district. And early voting for the race began April 7 in Hall County and Monday in many other counties.

A few candidates released television advertisements, and fundraising frontrunners Lee Hawkins and Tom Graves, both former state lawmakers, have already begun attacking each other in campaign e-mails.

Although updated information was not available on the Federal Elections Commission website Friday, both Graves and Hawkins sent out news releases touting their financial support in the first quarter of the year, both attributing it to their continuing momentum.

Hawkins’ campaign said it received more than $195,000 in the first three months of the year, and Graves campaign raised more than $155,000.

But with early voting, some of the district’s roughly 395,000 voters have already made up their minds.

Election supervisors in a few counties across the 15-county district said they were surprised that as many voters showed up in the first week of early voting in their counties.

Still, others said the numbers were low — even for early voting in a called special election.

In Hall County, 50 people voted between April 7 and Friday. Interim Elections Director Charlotee Sosebee said she had expected at least 75 by now. Also on the ballot in Hall is a race to fill a seat in state Senate District 49, which was vacated by Hawkins.

And while she couldn’t point to a reason that turnout was lower than expected, Sosebee noted that Friday only signaled the end of the first full week of early voting.

“A lot of people may not be aware that we are having a special election,” Sosebee said.

Like most other counties in the district, Fannin County opened for early voting on Monday. By the end of the week, 54 voters came into the office to cast a ballot, and 17 mailed one in, said Mary Ann Conner, chairman of the Fannin County Board of Elections.

Like Sosebee, Conner said voters had been slow to come, but she couldn’t put her finger on a reason.

“It’s hard to predict a voter,” she said.

But Nelda Spires, chief registrar for Gilmer County, said some voters have told her why they haven’t come to the polls yet. Since Gilmer County opened early voting on April 9, 13 people have showed up to vote and six have mailed in a ballot.

“Most people are telling me they don’t know who to vote for — that’s what I’m hearing,” she said. “It may pick up in the next week or two as this progresses and as people begin to know who the candidates are and learn more about them.”