Heavy turnout for Saturday voting

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Heavy turnout for Saturday voting

Early voting lines were long Saturday across metro Atlanta as thousands took advantage of the weather and opportunity to cast ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.

From voter registration offices in Rockdale County and south Fulton County to offices in north Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett, lines often wrapped around buildings and extended along sidewalks, observers and postings on Twitter said.

In this first year for statewide voting on a Saturday, counties must keep polling places open at least from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voting opportunities will also increase starting Monday, as counties especially in metro Atlanta expand the number of early-voting polling sites and extend hours. Early voting ends next Friday.

Many voters stood in line in jackets, pullovers and sweaters as weather began to turn cooler and breezier. Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz said a cold front was making its way through North Georgia, with chilly temperatures and partly cloudy skies by Sunday morning.

Romney supporters Hirsch Boucchechter and Norma Garcia-Boucchechter of Chamblee said Saturday was the most convenient time for them to vote. Hirsch spends most of the work-week out of town for his employer Accenture, while Norma is tied up during the week teaching 3- to 6-year-olds at First Montessori School of Atlanta.

“I thought if I don’t do it now, I might try next Saturday,” Hirsch Boucchechter said. “But Norma told me there won’t be early voting then, so she convinced me to get it done today.”

Clinton Ancrum of Dunwoody said President Barack Obama’s decision to vote early influenced him to come out and do the same on Saturday. An Obama supporter, he also said he was concerned about rumors pushed by both Democrats and Republicans that voters would be intimidated by long lines on Nov. 6.

At the Rockdale voter registration office in Conyers on Parker Road, the wait was around two hours, even with the line moving steadily.

Rockdale Superior Court Judge David Irwin, who was in line in Conyers, said he was pleasantly surprised to see the long lines.

“I don’t mind the wait,” Irwin said. “Election Day is one of my favorite days. There are only two cards people need in America — a library card and the voter registration card. I love seeing people engaged.”

Jamie Wilson of Conyers said he didn’t anticipate problems on Nov. 6 but decided to go ahead and cast his ballot early. “I wanted to make sure I got the opportunity,” Wilson said.

Sheila Thomas and her husband, Myron, brought chairs for the long wait at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta. The couple had already been in line for two hours with at least an additional two hours to go before being able to cast their ballots. By mid-morning the line had more than 650 voters, according to officials

Long lines were also reported at the South Fulton Service Center on Stonewall Tell Road, at the Ocee Library on Abbots Bridge Road in Johns Creek in north Fulton, and at George Pierce Park in Suwanee in Gwinnett.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp reported Friday that at least 780,565 ballots had been cast, which was about 100,000 additional votes since the previous update.

Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said it’s difficult to compare Saturday’s turnout with others since this is the first year for Saturday voting.

“We hope as many Georgians as possible have the opportunity to take advantage of it,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said it was up to county polling officials to extend voting hours beyond the 4 p.m. minimum ending time.

Voters must show photo identification, which includes any valid state or federal government issued photo ID. Voters can visit the Secretary of State’s Office website to find their advance voting place location or regular voting place, and a sample ballot, for the Nov. 6 election.

Staff writer Leon Stafford and photographer Brant Sanderlin contributed to this report.

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