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Government, organizations to aid voters

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

During what is expected to be part of the largest election turnout in American history, the Clayton County government and local advocacy groups are coming together to make sure voters make it to the polls quickly and safely.

Today, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners' (BOC) office will be working with volunteers at various polling locations to pass out water and assist those waiting in long lines to vote. In addition, the Clayton County Branch NAACP will be organizing shuttles to help stranded voters make it to the polls.

As of Friday, 42 percent of the Clayton County electorate had already voted, according to BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell. With 508 voting machines operating in the county at 58 different precincts, Bell expects lines to move swiftly, but said the county is prepared for a 100 percent voter turnout.

"This election year is overwhelming for everybody," said Bell. "We weren't anymore overwhelmed than anybody else, but our staff has planned the best we can to meet this challenge, and we feel that we can do it without requesting extra time."

Bell said the polls in Clayton County will be open from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m. He encouraged non-political organizations and churches to pass out water and food to people at the polls.

"We will permit anything that is not associated with a campaign," said Bell. "We're calling out to the community to assist us with this unusual election process."

Dexter Matthews, chapter president of the Clayton County Branch NAACP, said that in addition to posting volunteers at strategic locations in the county to remind people to vote, the NAACP will shuttle people without transportation to the polls.

"We're just trying to do whatever we can to get as many people to the polls as we can," said Matthews. "We know that certain people don't have cars or transportation. We want to make sure that everybody counts and that everybody who wants to vote can get to the polls."

Two shuttle vans will be picking up voters from around the county. Those who need a ride can contact the NAACP at (770) 471-0669 or (404) 323-6943.

Annie Bright, director of the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration, said people should know where they are registered before coming to the polls to avoid confusion and unnecessary waiting. She added that a government-issued photo identification is required to vote, but said people without one can come to the Elections and Registration Office in Jonesboro and receive a free Georgia Voter Identification Card.

"If they don't have any type of photo identification, they can come and get a free photo ID card," said Bright. "They can do that on the day of the election. If they don't have any photo ID, then they can fill out a provisional ballot and will have 48 hours to provide documentation."

Bright said any voters who have received a non-citizen letter from the Georgia Secretary of State will need to present proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certification, or naturalization papers, in order to vote.

"People should basically come prepared," said Bright.

To make sure your vote counts on election day:

· Know your polling station before you go. Don't waste time standing in line at the wrong polling station. Call the Elections and Registration Office at (770) 477-3372, if you are not sure.

· Bring the proper identification. A government-issued photo identification card is required to vote. If you do not have a photo identification card, you can go to the Elections and Registration Office in Jonesboro on election day and be issued a Georgia Voter ID, free of charge.

· If you do not have photo ID and cannot obtain a Voter ID card, ask for a provisional ballot. You will have 48 hours to submit the proper identification to the Elections and Registration Office in Jonesboro.

· Be comfortable. People should be prepared to stand in long lines. Pack a lunch, bring plenty of water, bring a lawn chair, and bring your medications. Try sharing your excess water and snacks with other people in line.

· Seniors over 75, and those with disabilities, need not wait in lines. See a poll worker and ask to be moved ahead.

· The Clayton County NAACP will be offering rides to the polls for people without transportation. To schedule a pick-up, call (770) 471-0669 or 1-866-687-8683.