By Joel Hall
Citizens in Clayton and Henry counties will have until Jan. 7 to register to vote in the Presidential primary elections.
The primary elections set for Feb. 5, 2008 will determine the Democratic, Republican, and third-party presidential candidates.
All first-time voters, as well as those who have moved, or changed their name since the last election, will need to fill out a new application in order to vote.
In Clayton, that can be done at the Clayton County Elections and Registration Office, located at 121 South McDonough Street, inside the Historic Clayton County Court House in Jonesboro.
Henry residents may register at the Henry County Elections Office, located at 66 Veteran's Drive in McDonough.
This year, voters will have to bring one of six approved forms of identification in order to vote. They include: a valid Georgia driver's license; a valid U.S. military photo identification card; a valid Georgia voter identification card; a valid employee photo identification issued by any branch, department, or agency of the United States, Georgia, or any county or city government within the state of Georgia; a valid United States passport, or a valid Native American tribal photo identification card.
Janet Shellnutt, director of elections for Henry County, said with the date of the primary being bumped up by more than a month, county election boards throughout the state are scrambling to register voters.
"We normally have it further in March," said Shellnutt. "Being a federal election, you have to have the ballots ready 45 days ahead of time. We had to do a lot of mailing out of military ballots and such the week before Christmas, so it kind of threw things off a bit."
In Clayton County, which is a predominantly Democratic county, Clayton County Democratic Party chairman Kevin Thomas said his party is gearing up for a large-scale registration drive next week before the registration deadline.
"This is a very important election for Democrats," said Thomas. "We have a very good opportunity to put a Democrat into the office.
"We put out more Democratic votes for our candidates than any other county in the state," Thomas continued. "Our focus is to get more people registered and to make sure that they are able to vote in the county."
In Henry County, which is predominately Republican, first vice chair of the Henry County Republican Party Jon Shoemaker, said the quickly approaching primary put the Republican party in "untested waters."
"It's going to be interesting to see the effect of everyone moving up their primaries is going to have," said Shoemaker. "On the Republican ticket, we have a pretty tight race. There's not a clear idea of who the frontrunner will be."
Shoemaker said if the race continues to be tight, there may be higher Republican turnout at the polls on Feb. 5.
While absentee voting is already underway, advance voting for the election will take place from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 at five locations in Clayton and four locations in Henry.
In Clayton, advance voting polls will be open from 8 a.m., to 7 p.m., at the Clayton County Elections and Registration Office in Jonesboro; the Lovejoy Branch Library in Lovejoy; the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale; the Lee Headquarters Library in Jonesboro; and the Morrow Municipal Complex in Morrow.
In Henry, the polls will be open from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., at the Henry County Elections Office in McDonough and three other locations in Hampton, Stockbridge, and Locust Grove, which are yet to be determined.
For more information about registering to vote, Clayton residents can call (770) 477-3372, or visit www.co.claytion.ga.us, and Henry Residents can call (770) 288-6448, or visit www.co.henry.ga.us.