0

Record early voting

By Michael Davis

Steve Donathan emerged from the Henry County election office Friday glad he had not waited until Tuesday to cast his vote.

Having come through a line spilling out of the Elections and Registration office, Henry County's only Advance Voting precinct, wrapping around the parking lot and down the street to a lower parking lot, Donathan, a Hampton resident, said it took him just over two hours to cast a ballot.

But while some in the line may have been kicking themselves for not having come earlier in the week, others were taking it in stride. "I'm glad I did it today instead of Tuesday," Donathan said.

By the close of the poll on Thursday, more than 8,000 had voted early in Henry County, and election officials expected at least another 3,000 to have voted by the end of Friday, the last day of early voting in Georgia.

"Everything is moving, we've just got overwhelming numbers," said Henry County Board of Elections Chairman Eddie Cardell.

Cardell was helping elderly and handicapped voters who had moved to the front of the line, which is allowed if no one minds.

"I think there'll be a record turnout on Tuesday," he said, looking at the length of the line, longer than the line any other day during the week.

In Clayton, voter lines weren't getting any better either. Earlier this week, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox predicted a 72 percent voter turnout but it wasn't clear how much, if any, early voting would help to thin lines at individual polls.

Morrow resident Monica Mayhan said she got in line at the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration Office Friday just after 7 a.m.

"It's worth the wait because everyone in line has been so helpful and pleasant," she said.

The line in Jonesboro snaked out to the road by 5 p.m. and election officials said they planned to stay and let everyone in lie vote. Officials predicted that around 4,000 will have voted by the time early voting ends.

Clayton County poll worker Kamardie Carter said lines have been building all week.

"It'll probably be just as crowded on Tuesday," he said.

With about the same numbers of voters registered in each precinct in Henry County as were set to vote Friday, poll workers there said lines were likely to be similar Tuesday.

"When I've been getting here at 6:30 in the morning, they're already lined up," said Henry County Election Director Janet Shellnutt.

But while Friday was the last day to vote early in the Nov. 2 election without an excuse, voters can still cast absentee ballots on Monday.

Absentee ballots are an option for some voters who are over age 75, have a disability, serve in the military or will be out of their precinct Nov.2.

Election officials were also taking another kind of ballot this week?a provisional ballot.

Provisional ballots can be cast when a voter shows up at a poll and their name is not on the registration list. If the voter claims to be registered and can provide information as to where and they registered, they can cast a provisional ballot. Registrars have two days after the close of the poll Tuesday to verify whether the person is registered and the vote can be counted.

Shellnutt said Friday that some voters in Henry have cast provisional ballots. "If you do a lot, it could change the outcome of the election," she said. However, she added, many of the provisional ballots cast this year in early elections wound up not counting because the voter was not registered.

This week has been the first use of Advance Voting in a general election, and the first time electronic machines have been used to tally votes state-wide in a presidential election.

The electronic machines were approved by the Georgia Legislature in 2002 and Georgia's Secretary of State Cathy Cox, the state's elections supervisor, declares her system a "resounding success" with only minor glitches reported in its five elections. Most were blamed on poll workers, not machines.

Staff writer Justin Boron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.