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Voting numbers surge
Many not waiting until Election Day to cast ballots
Student Poll Training 3 es
Gina Grana, left, and Sarah Graham plug in their voting machine Thursday evening at a student training event for poll workers. - photo by Emily Saunders
With more than two weeks left before the Nov. 4 election, more than 9 percent of Forsyth’ County’s registered voters have already voted.

Thanks to a new state law, voters have been able to cast an in-person absentee ballot since Sept. 19. And in the past month, more than 9,400 voters have done just that.

Gary J. Smith, the county’s director of elections, said he is excited to see such a turnout, which seems to increase nearly every day. On Friday, a record 895 ballots were cast.

Early voting week still is scheduled for the week before Election Day. Smith said about 30 percent of the county’s voters have opted to vote early the last two elections, a trend he does not see changing despite the extended voting period.

The turnout may still be 30 percent, but the number of voters will be considerably larger than past elections.

“We’re going to have somewhere between 85,000 and 90,000 people who are going to vote,” Smith said. “We’ve never ever had that many people vote ever.

“If you think 30 percent of 90,000 registered voters, you’ve got somewhere around 27,000 people. That’s a ton of people.”

Another shift Smith expects is in the breakdown of voters by party. During the 2000 and 20004 presidential elections, about 19 percent and 16 percent of votes, respectively, supported the Democrat.

“I think we’ve had a change in demographics in the county for one thing,” he said. “There have been people who have not voted in the past that will probably come out and vote now.”

The majority of votes likely will still go to the Republican presidential candidate, but Smith said the gap is closing. He estimated at least a 75-25 percent split, if not more, this year.

“I do know both parties are working hard,” he said. “In the past, there hasn’t been as much of a presence from the Democratic Party. And I think they’re working hard at this point in time, and that certainly may end with them getting out there with more voters.

“There’s a lot more people on both sides of the fence that are interested in voting. I think it’s a pretty exciting time.”