Early voting sees sizable turnout

  • Early voting is going strong on Short Street as polls opened up to locals last week.
    Early voting is going strong on Short Street as polls opened up to locals last week.

By Matt Aiken & Dave Williams
The Nugget and Capitol Beat reports

The first week of early voting was bustling, but that didn’t exactly surprise Chief Registrar and Elections Manager Ashley Peck.
“Presidential early voting is pretty constant all day long and it always has been,” she said.  “We’re busy all the time for those elections.”
It would appear that this election cycle will be even busier as a total of 4,191 local voters had cast a ballot at the Short Street facility by the end of the day this Monday.
Peck said that around a total of 9,000 voters took advantage of early voting in 2016.
“I’d say we’re definitely on track to beat that,” she said.
Though the socially distanced line is often out the door and around the corner, Peck said it’s still moving smoothly.
“Lots of people come at a one time but the line is moving,” she said, “So we’re pretty happy with it.”
Early voting will continue this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 56 Short Street.
Polls will also be open on Saturday, October 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Then expanded hours will go into effect the final week of early voting from Monday, Oct. 26 to Friday Oct. 30 as polls open at 8 a.m. and stay open until 7 p.m..
Election Day follows on Tuesday, November 3 at Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation Center.
For a full look at the ballot see page 10A.
On a state level, Georgians are mailing in absentee ballots and voting early in record numbers and are expected to break another record on Election Day, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday.
“Georgia voters are excited and setting records every hour,” Raffensperger told reporters during a news conference at the state Capitol. “And this is all during a pandemic.”
Raffensperger said 1.6 million voters have requested an absentee ballot. Nearly 500,000 of those votes have been received and accepted, he said.
Another 241,706 voters cast their ballots in person during the first two days of the early voting period this week.
The deluge of early voters resulted in hours-long waits on Monday and Tuesday for some voters.
Raffensperger said his office is adding voting equipment at the precincts experiencing the longest lines.
Besides the sheer volume of early voters, Raffensperger said voters who cast mail-in ballots then showed up at early voting locations anyway are slowing down the process.
Also, it takes time to print the paper backups accompanying the new voting machines the state began using this year, he said.
“That’s going to give voters confidence,” Raffensperger said. “They can look at their vote before they cast it.”
Raffensperger said another contributor to the long lines is the time it takes to clean and sanitize voting machines following each use.
Anheuser-Busch is donating hand sanitizers at early voting locations, while The Home Depot is providing free plastic face shields. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter and the Metro Atlanta Chamber also have contributed to the effort by sending the secretary of state’s office lists of volunteers willing to serve as poll workers.
“Together, we will have a successful election, keeping all of our options open,” Raffensperger said.
While some of the longest early voting lines have been in Fulton County, early voters at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta were having to wait 20 minutes at most, Raffensperger said.
Voters in many North Fulton precincts were waiting much longer.
“In other parts of Fulton County, you don’t have as many machines because the building won’t hold them,” Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger urged Georgians who have asked for an absentee ballot to use it rather than show up to vote in person at an early voting location.