Hall County voters can cast ballots again as early voting for the general election begins today.
Election Day is Nov. 2, but voters can come to the polls in advance until Oct. 29.
Forsyth and Gwinnett county residents start early voting Friday, and residents in Barrow, Jackson, Banks, Habersham, White, Lumpkin and Dawson counties can head to early voting stations on Monday.
Early voting must, by law, begin no later than 45 days before the election.
However, counties have the option to begin earlier than that if they wish.
"We're in the process of testing our voting equipment now, and we'll be ready to start early. No law stops us from starting early as long as we are prepared to have ballots available," Hall County's Interim Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said Tuesday. "It's something extra we're doing for our voters because we've had a large number of phone calls and voters inquiring when early voting would begin."
Residents must register by the statewide cutoff deadline of Oct. 4 to vote.
"Early voting is very popular in Hall County now, probably due to the local contested races and representatives on the ballot for governor as well as the state senator and U.S. representative races," Sosebee said. "As we've seen with the special election, these are hot topics."
Based on a 51 percent turnout for the 2006 gubernatorial general election and the 76 turnout for the 2008 presidential general election, Sosebee is predicting a 55 percent turnout for November.
"Based on the popularity of voting in Hall County lately, I could easily predict that," she said. "I want to have hope that it'll be close to that."
Ross Alexander, a political science professor at North Georgia College & State University, has also seen an increase in early voting.
"People are comfortable with early voting more and more, so I think it will be a continued trend," he said.
"Rather than having to vote on a single day — awkwardly, a Tuesday — people can vote when it fits their schedules. Georgia has been a leader in adopting early voting strategies."
In July, Alexander said, the primary election was important, especially in states such as Georgia that have heavy support for one party. Voters who turned out for the primary election could essentially pick the next Republican governor.
However, early voting and higher turnout may favor candidate Roy Barnes.
"Early voting would indicate higher turnout, since there are more opportunities for people to participate. Higher turnout tends to favor Democrats in most elections," he said. "Statistically and historically, young people, people of lower socio-economic classes and education levels, and people of color vote less often compared to affluent, white, well-educated people. The former group tends to vote Democratic, while the latter group tends to vote Republican."
With the highly contested gubernatorial race and the revelation of candidate Nathan Deal's troubling finances, voting in the general election could be more important than ever.
"I think this will have a significant impact on the race both in terms of how voters view (Deal) as a candidate and also how potential donors to his campaign view him as a viable winner," Alexander said. "The emergence of his financial problems will surely be highlighted by Barnes' team over and over until November."