Early voting in Georgia, so successful four years ago in the 2008 presidential election, gets under way Monday across the state.
Observers are encouraging voters to take advantage of casting their votes before Election Day to save time and prevent long lines. Additionally, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Georgia will release next week an informational voter guide about candidates and other issues on the ballot.
“What the league is trying to do is make sure everyone is educated about what early voting is, every vote is actually cast and everyone who is registered to vote is allowed to vote,” said Elizabeth Poythress, state president of the league. “The main thing is to vote. To not vote is to give your voice to someone else.”
Any voter registered in Georgia may participate in early voting — or as the state officially calls it, “absentee in person.” Each county or municipality has at least one early-voting site open, where ballots can be cast before Election Day. Voters just need to show up, making sure they have one of the required forms of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or valid U.S. passport.
Closer to Nov. 6, counties especially in metro Atlanta will increase their number of early-voting sites and even extend hours. Local voting times and locations can be found at the Georgia secretary of state’s website at www.sos.ga.gov.
Lawmakers expanded early voting in 2008. They changed state law to allow anyone to vote early without having to state a reason within 45 days of the election. Before then, voters could cast “advanced” ballots without a stated reason only during the week before the election.
The result of the change meant more than 2 million Georgia voters — or 53 percent of all those who voted — cast ballots before Election Day in the November 2008 general election, either in person or by mail. Only 13 percent did so in 2004. Officials said the heavy early turnout in 2008 prevented longer lines at the polls on Election Day.
Another big early turnout is expected this fall, although it may not beat that record. Nearly 40 percent of likely Georgia voters said they plan to cast a ballot during early voting, compared with 54 percent who plan to wait until Election Day, according to a poll conducted last week for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Supporters of President Barack Obama are much more likely — 45 percent to 31 percent — to participate in early voting, the poll found.
More than 30 states offer some type of early voting. Its expansion has changed the campaign season nationally as parties have seized on the opportunity to get supporters to the polls early in an effort to increase turnout.
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