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Obama, economy draws early Clayton voters

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

As Gwen Moore, a teacher at Kemp Elementary in Hampton, prepared to cast her vote early at the Historic Clayton County Courthouse on Wednesday, the line stretched from the Elections and Registration Office, all the way to North McDonough Street.

Undeterred, and inspired by the possibility of voting for the first African American president, Moore said it was "worth the wait."

Since early voting started on Sept. 22, election officials in Georgia have recorded 825,983 votes - 705,205 in person and 118,778 by mail.

Moore said Senator Barack Obama's run for the presidency has inspired a younger generation of minorities to set their sights higher, which she believes will ultimately improve the voting process.

"A large reason people don't participate is because they feel left out. Now all these people are coming out here to vote ... that's hope. The children are interested and they are talking about it," Moore said. "If this continues, then we will have a more democratic country.

Despite low turnouts in the county's recent primary and runoff elections, hundreds of voters are showing up for the Nov. 4, general election. The historic courthouse is the county's only early voting site.

Walter Watson, a bus driver from Hampton, said the economy, not necessarily Obama, is what is galvanizing the Clayton County electorate.

"This isn't all about Barack," said Watson. "I think the biggest change is the economy. It's effecting everybody, not just blacks and minorities. All of these things have people concerned."

However, Watson, 58, who grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, said he is glad to see the large number of voters.

"The motivation is still the same," said Watson. "This year, they have more of an inspiration."

Clayton County District 2 commissioner Virginia Gray, who volunteered on Wednesday with the Elections and Registration Office, said she is thrilled with the high turnout, but wished more people had turned out to vote in the primary election, July 15.

"As a Clayton County elected official, its bittersweet..." said Gray. "I wish we had showed this much interest in our children when we had so many [Board of Education] seats to fill."

This Friday will be the last day of early voting. Advance voting will take place at six locations around the county, from Oct. 27-31.

The six advance voting sites for the November general election will be the Elections and Registration Office in Jonesboro; the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center in Rex; the Lee Headquarters Library in Jonesboro; the Lovejoy Branch Library in Lovejoy; the Morrow Municipal Complex in Morrow; and the Frank Bailey Senior Center.