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Long lines await early voters

By Greg Gelpi

A line of early voters wound through the Clayton County Historic Courthouse and spilled into the parking lot outside.

Elections officials anticipated a busy first day of early voting, yet the turnout produced long waits for what many predict to be a large turnout for a tight presidential election.

Eyeing the line from outside, Elder Dancy of Rex walked up to the back of the line, although he admitted being "hesitant" at the sight of the crowd.

"But, I'm sure it will be longer on Election Day, so I figured I would take my chances," Dancy said, content to remain in line.

Jim Kemp and Kathryn Kemp of Jonesboro, though, left the line after waiting about 15 minutes and hearing that the wait could be as long as three hours.

Election Day is Nov. 2, but voters can cast their ballots early this week by going to the elections office at 121 S. McDonough St. in Jonesboro. There won't be advance voting Monday, but there will be absentee voting, voting with an approved excuse.

Annie Bright, the Clayton County director of elections and registration, had said she expected an early voter turnout of twice that of the July 20 primary election.

"I don't think they expected this number of people coming out," Jim Kemp said. "A three-hour wait is a little long. Obviously, there's going to be a large turnout for Election Day."

Kathryn Kemp said the long wait and bright sun made them decide to leave before heat stroke sets in.

"There probably aren't that many people in my precinct as there are in this line," she said.

Another voter said the lines may be long, but they could be longer on Election Day.

"We came to avoid lines," Eleanor Holland of Jonesboro said. "Forget that. I think it's a good time (to vote) because it will be more packed on Election Day."

In the 2000 presidential general election, there were 2,684,951 ballots cast in Georgia, or almost 70 percent of the state's registered voters.

That number could be much higher after several efforts to register residents to vote.

The number of registered voters in Clayton County topped the 125,000-mark Bright said. Almost 9,000 county residents registered to vote from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15.

Although the Georgia Secretary of State's Office won't make predictions on turnout until today, spokeswoman Cara Hodgson said turnout for presidential elections is "historically" higher than most elections.

Hodgson said that statewide there have been long lines because early voting is so "popular."