Early voting starts Monday

By Michael Davis

Lauran Murphy couldn't wait to cast her ballot this week. She said she won't be in town on Nov. 2 and wanted to cast an absentee ballot.

But voters who don't have an excuse to be away from their polling place on election day can cast a ballot Monday during the early voting period.

Predicting a close race, Locust Grove resident Murphy said she wanted to make sure that her voice was heard in the presidential election.

"I believe the race is going to be close and that's all the more reason that I want my voice counted," she said.

But the race for the White House isn't the only race those in the Southern Crescent are interested in.

The chair of the Clayton and Henry county commissions are both contested and neither incumbent is seeking reelection.

In Henry, a pool of six candidates is running for a single school board seat in a non-partisan election and a 2-term state representative faces a challenger.

Henry voters, Election Director Janet Shellnutt said, are also particularly interested in a local referendum allowing for a floating homestead property tax exemption.

For the fourth early voting session this year, Shellnutt expects a record number of voters.

With nearly 2,000 voting during the week before the July 20 primary, she said she expects 3,000-5,000 to vote in the coming week.

One reason? A record number of voters are registered this year.

Oct. 1 and 4, the last two days to register to vote in this year's general election, Shellnutt said her office took in 5,000 voter registration application, bringing the total number of registered in Henry to more than 93,000.

In Clayton County, voter registration drives helped to increase voter rolls. Annie Bright, election director for Clayton County, said voter rolls are up to more than 125,000. Almost 9,000 registration applications came in between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, she said. Oct. 4 was the last day to post-mark a registration application.

Shellnutt said 3,400 voters cast absentee ballots in Henry in the 2000 election, but as of early this week, more than 1,000 had already voted absentee?a full week before advance voting was to begin. Absentee ballots must be in the election office by Nov. 2.

Bright said with the number of voters registered in Clayton County, her office is expecting twice the amount of early voters as they saw during the primary.

"We do expect a big turnout, especially now that the word is out," she said.

Bright said that some voters have come to the office during the last two weeks wanting to advance vote, but could only cast a ballot if they had an excuse.

While early voting won't be allowed Monday, Nov. 1, absentee voting, with an excuse, will be available, Bright said.