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Early voting just got earlier
Voters can cast ballots beginning Sept. 19
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Forsyth County News

The wait for the Nov. 4 election just got shorter.

To help reduce Election Day lines, Georgia voters can now cast a ballot in person up to 45 days ahead of time, or as early as Sept. 19.

Early balloting falls under the umbrella of absentee voting, said Forsyth County Chief Voter Registrar Gary J. Smith in explaining the move.

While voters didn't previously need an excuse to receive a mail-in ballot 45 days in advance, they were required to give a reason to vote in person that early.

"I will tell you there were a lot of people who seemed to take cruises during that period of time," he joked. "They knew that we knew what they were doing, but we couldn't ask for any proof on it."

The switch does away with that. Instead of requiring proof for absentee voting, state legislators decided to open the in-person absentee voting to all registered voters.

District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said he supported the measure to make sure all registered voters have ample time to vote.

"If they have trouble getting to the polls, this gives them 45 days to work it out so they can go ahead and cast their vote," he said. "We bent over backwards to take care of that to make sure everyone was given the opportunity to exercise their right."

Voters can cast a ballot in person as early as Sept. 19. But the only place open for voting that early will be the county's election office, and during normal business hours.

And though the voting period has been extended an additional 40 days, the cost will not increase, as no poll workers are required.

Poll workers will make between $130 and $170, depending on their level of training, during their 14-hour shift on Election Day.

In Cobb County, poll workers make between $95 and $175. In Hall County, figures show, they make between $8 and $10 an hour, while in Fulton, that figure ranges from $175 and $250.

Beginning Oct. 27, standard early voting will begin. At that time, four satellite locations and the main office, will be open with extended hours.

Traditional week-before early voting runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In response to voter requests, however, Smith got permission from the U.S. Department of Justice to extend hours until 7 p.m. that week.

"We had a lot of requests from voters," he said. "The people really liked the early voting, but what they wanted to have was more hours."

Smith said there likely will be a surge in early voting during the presidential election due to the extra time, but he still is planning for the same 30 percent turnout as the presidential preference and primary elections earlier this year.

The county's electronic voting machines used in early voting can't be used again on Election Day, so Smith said he'd rather have short lines during early voting, than longer lines on Nov 4.

About 60 machines will be used for early voting, leaving about 460 for Election Day.

In addition to voting machines, Smith said they will be well-stocked with poll workers, with about 50 a day during early voting week and 380 on Nov. 4.

With a recent jump in voter registration, Smith said he expects this to be one of the county's largest elections.

Between Aug. 25 and Monday, nearly 1,870 people registered to vote in Forsyth.

Smith said about 155 people register every day, as compared to the typical daily average of about 25.

Oct. 6 is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 4 election.

"It's been our intention to make it more convenient for voters to be able to vote more easily," Smith said. "I think this is going to help a lot."