People wait in a long line to vote Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration office in Marietta. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

THE LATEST: Huge — maybe historic — turnout for early voting on Saturday

With hundreds of people waiting in line outside the polls in Marietta on a chilly Saturday morning, Cobb County appears on track for a “historic turnout” for a gubernatorial election.

Janine Eveler, director of elections and registration for Cobb County, said wait lines at the main election office on Whitlock Avenue were between three to four hours late Saturday morning. She recommended voters consider heading to the polls at Jim R. Miller Park Event Center, where wait times were closer to an hour.

By noon Saturday, Eveler anticipated between 1,600 and 1,700 people would vote Saturday at the main election office of Cobb County, up from 1,000 people who voted there on the statewide Saturday for early voting in 2014.

She said the numbers are more similar to what election officials see for presidential elections.

Under gray skies with temperatures hovering in the low 50s, virtually everyone remained in line in Marietta, prepared to wait it out to make their choices for the midterm election. Many people were bundled up, some even wrapped in blankets. Some people brought books, others perused their smartphones. Many toted hot coffee — all to help pass the time as comfortably as possible.

At Cobb’s main election site, many said they couldn’t get to the polls during the week because of their jobs.

Dave Hensley, a 25-year-old investment banker who lives in Marietta, said it was more convenient to vote on a Saturday.

“It’s important to vote,” he said. “I’ve been exercising my right to vote since I was 18.”

Saturday was the best opportunity for many Georgia voters to cast their ballots early if they’re too busy to visit a polling place during weekdays. Georgia law requires all of the state’s 159 counties to offer in-person early voting on at least one Saturday.

Already, hundreds of thousands of people have cast ballots in advance of Election Day on Nov. 6.

Early voting has become increasingly popular in Georgia. About 58 percent of all voters cast their ballots in advance of Election Day in 2016, and 37 percent voted early in 2014.

Through Thursday, 944,426 people had voted in Georgia – that’s almost three times as many ballots cast as at the same point in the last midterm elections in 2014.

Middle school teacher Earnest Woodall casts his vote at Dekalb County Library-Dunwoody Branch on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

record number of Georgians, 6.9 million, are registered to vote for this year’s elections, which feature the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Elections for U.S. Congress, statewide offices and the Georgia General Assembly are also at stake this year.

Any registered voter can cast a ballot at early voting sites, where they use the same kind of touchscreen voting machines available on Election Day. No votes will be counted until then.

There’s still one week of early voting remaining after Saturday. Some metro counties are also offering early voting today. Then after Friday, regular neighborhood precincts will open on Election Day.

Meanwhile on Saturday, turnout was also strong in other parts of metro Atlanta. A steady stream of voters filed through the polling place at the Dunwoody library although the line moved quickly and voters barely had to wait to cast their ballot.

Jimmy Lee, a 34-year-old certified public accountant, said he considers himself an independent voter who votes for both Republicans and Democrats. This year, however, he said, he was voting not only for Stacey Abrams, but voting a straight ticket for all Democrats.

“I think we have moved too far to the right,” Lee said. “And we need to move closer to the center.”

Of course, there were also supporters for Kemp out voting Saturday, even if they didn’t choose to share their selection with media after casting their ballots. With President Donald Trump recently sending a tweet urging Georgians to vote early and to vote for Kemp, there was no doubt that plenty of folks turning out Saturday were from the Republican side.

In the end, there were many motivated voters casting their votes.

Renata Fleming, manger of the polls at the Dunwoody library, said the number of voters has been increasing every day, and Saturday’s turnout suggested big numbers for the gubernatorial race.

“You really never see it this busy for a governor’s race,” she said.

To find early voting hours and locations for your county, use the Georgia Secretary of State My Voter page, or choose your county from the list below. 

The Secretary of State link is also a good place to make sure you are registered to vote and check on information about absentee ballots. 

Use these links to find early voting locations and hours for CobbDeKalbFultonGwinnettClayton or another metro Atlanta county.

— Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.

» Check out the 2018 AJC Voters Guide to see what’s on your ballot before you vote 

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