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Early voting bill shifts to Senate
House supports Hamilton's plan
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Forsyth County News


Early voting is a step closer to being shortened.

In a 148-20 vote, the state House backed a measure that would reduce the number of early voting days from 45 to 21.

The bill, authored by District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, is aimed at saving money and making the early voting process more manageable for local municipalities.

Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming, said the bill passed with such support because it was a good compromise.

“I originally wanted one week and I think there were certain Democrats out there that didn’t want any changes, or wanted four weeks or five weeks,” he said of the three-week compromise.

“That’s the great thing about the legislative process is we could get to a compromise that’s significant enough of a reduction that it makes this worth doing, but at the same time will make people feel comfortable that we’re not taking away the people’s right to vote.”

In addition to shortening the early voting time period, the measure would also require the elections office to allow voting from at least 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on the second Saturday prior to an election.

“I think the addition of a required Saturday went a long way in getting Democratic support,” Hamilton said. “Many said if it didn’t have that Saturday, they would not have been able to support it.”

The measure does not affect absentee ballots, which include those sent overseas to military personnel, which would still remain at 45 days.

If approved, the bill could save more than $10,000 in Forsyth County for the 2012 election, local officials have said.

The bill next goes to the Senate, where Hamilton said he hopes it will receive the same support.

If signed by the governor, the bill would still need to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice to make sure it meets federal guidelines.

“Realistically, it should not be a long, drawn-out process,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for that to drag on, especially if we’re able to maintain the type of bipartisan support that we have."