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Expanded early voting gets under way
Law change allows 45-day window for ballots
Polling Training 2 es
Michael Hirschmann, left, and Eron Sunshine are trained on Forsyth County polling computers Wednesday at the Avita warehouse. Expanded early voting for the Nov. 4 election began Friday. - photo by Emily Saunders

Beginning Friday, any registered voter with valid photo identification can cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 presidential election.

To help reduce Election Day lines, the state legislature has opened in-person absentee voting to all registered voters, allowing them to vote up to 45 days ahead of time.

Previously, in-person voting was reserved for those with a valid excuse for missing the election. An excuse is no longer required for voting early, either in person or via mailed paper ballot.

Though the early voting extension could cut back on the anticipated record Election Day turnout, Forsyth County Chief Voter Registrar Gary J. Smith said it is unlikely to have a noticeable impact.

"I don't think people are going to rush out to vote [today]," he said.

"I think people are going to wait two weeks before the election. But I think they'll really start to vote during the early voting week."

During the July primary election, Smith said about 30 percent of ballots were cast during early voting week. He expects early turnout to be about the same, despite the 45-day head start.

Another factor that could cut back on wait times, Smith said, is if people come prepared.

Many voters may not know that in addition to their options for president and national legislators, the ballot feature separate bond referendums to build a new county jail and sheriff's headquarters.

Even fewer voters, Smith said, may be aware they also are being asked to decide three state constitutional amendments, including one that would encourage the preservation of Georgia's forests through a conservation use property tax reduction program.

The other amendments would authorize local school districts to use tax funds for community redevelopment purposes and create special Infrastructure Development Districts providing infrastructure to underserved areas.

"We need to make sure people understand what the constitutional issues are on the ballot, because those are the things that, when people go in to vote, slow everybody down," Smith said.

"We want the voters to be informed. We want them to come in and already know what they're doing. We want them to vote, and we want them to be on their happy, merry way."