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Early voting starts Monday for runoff
Despite stakes, election fatigue could be a factor
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Forsyth County News
At a glance
Forsyth County residents registered to vote on or before Oct. 6 can vote in the runoff election, even if they didn't vote during the presidential election Nov. 4.

* In-person absentee voting
Begins Monday and runs from 8 a.m. to  4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday through Nov. 21. It can be done only at the Office of Voter Registration and Elections, 110 East Main St. in Cumming.

* Early voting Nov. 24-26
The following locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.:
-- Cumming Public Library, 585 Dahlonega Highway
-- Sharon Forks Public Library, 2820 Old Atlanta Road
-- Forsyth County Public Safety Complex, 3520 Settingdown Road
-- Midway Park, 5100 Post Road

In addition, the Office of Voter Registration and Elections, 110 East Main St., will be open from 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

* Dec. 2
All 33 precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Contact
For more information, contact (770) 781- 2118 or go online at

* Voter IDs
One of six valid state or federal government-issued photo identification cards is required to vote in person, regardless of whether during early voting or on Dec. 2.
Accepted IDs include a Georgia driver's license (even if expired), valid U.S. passport, government- issued employee, military or tribal identification cards, or a valid Georgia voter ID card will be accepted for in-person voters.
Absentee ballots sent by mail do not require photo identification verification. A valid photo ID is also not required to register to vote.

Things may not be the same the second time around.

When in-person absentee voting begins Monday, Forsyth County's elections chief expects a much lower turnout, little to no wait and less enthusiasm.

"I think people are just tired," Gary J. Smith said. "I can't tell you how much interest is going to be generated in this race, even though it is a very important race, because ... we've just gotten over a long, drawn-out election. Everybody's tired from it."

The runoff election includes three statewide races: U.S. Senate, Public Service Commission and State Court of Appeals.

As evidenced by the seemingly endless TV commercials, Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is battling to keep his seat from Democrat Jim Martin.

Martin drew about 3 percent less of the vote than Chambliss, but Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley's 3.4 percent of the tally was enough to prevent Chambliss from securing a majority.

Democrat Jim Powell and Republican Lauren "Bubba" McDonald Jr., a former longtime Forsyth County legislator, face off for the District 4 Public Service Commission seat.

Both received less than 48 percent of the vote, as Libertarian Brandon Givens received 4.9 percent. Powell led McDonald by seven-tenths of a percent.

Less of a surprise is the runoff for State Court of Appeals judge, a nonpartisan contest. With seven candidates vying for the seat, it was unlikely one would emerge with a majority.

Sara Doyle and Mike Sheffield, who received 22.5 and 20.9 percent of the vote, respectively, advanced to the runoff.
Smith said the cost of the runoff election can be as high as $30,000. Ordering 15,000 paper absentee ballots at 50 cents apiece accounts for a quarter of the anticipated cost.

Between early voting and Election Day, Smith estimates turnout will be about 25 percent at most. But the county may have a higher turnout than others.

"Our county is going to be very hard looked at by at least the Republican Party, because this is the county that has put out a lot of Republican votes," Smith said.

"But also, Lauren McDonald is from here, his son (Lauren McDonald III) is the coroner here, he's well known in our county and he's going to be pushing to get every vote he can out of this county."

Even with Forsyth's pull, Smith said, the thing that's "throwing a monkey wrench in turnout is really the Thanksgiving holiday."

Early voting begins Nov. 24, the Monday before Thanksgiving, when many families may be heading out of town.

The holiday also shortens early voting to three days instead of five, as the elections office and satellite locations will close Nov. 27 and 28 for Thanksgiving.

Smith said in-person absentee voting this week may be more popular than early voting the following week, or casting a ballot on Election Day, due to holiday schedules.

"Lines could be longer," he said. "It really depends on what this election's turnout is going to be.

"I don't really know what's going to happen, but I'm prepared for anything."