Early voters rush to the polls ahead of Georgia’s March 1 primary

Esteban Perez, 27, of Lawrenceville cast his very first vote Saturday at Gwinnett County’s election headquarters.

“As a recently sworn U.S. citizen, I’d like to exercise my right to vote and show support to the political party that best fits my interests,” he said.

Perez said he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton because of her support for immigration reform and LGBT issues.

He was one of many Georgia voters who cast ballots Saturday, the one weekend day the state required polls to be open for the March 1 presidential preference primary.

Most voters interviewed did not reveal their choices, but were happy to talk about the issues that drove them to the polls.

Stephanie Weaver, 43, of Roswell, was thinking of her children’s future.

“We want a very strong defense and also a very strong economy,” she said. “I want my kids to have a future that’s as prosperous as the one I’ve enjoyed. Right now it doesn’t seem to be looking very bright.”

Weaver and her husband, Nathan, 42, voted Saturday at the Roswell Library.

Nathan Weaver said he hopes the next president will be “someone who can bring the country together” and “unite both parties.”

Glenda Benson, of Lawrenceville, echoed Weaver’s concerns about “strengthening our military.” She also said the next president should continue “President Obama’s legacy on health care.”

Beth Miller, 52, of Roswell, said her biggest concerns are “illegal immigration and getting rid of Obamacare.” She said she wants the next president to return the country to its “core values.”

Richard Oppelt, 62, of Lawrenceville, doesn’t like the political talk he’s been hearing. “I’m a little concerned about the fascism that appears to be emerging in the country,” said Richard Oppelt, 62, of Lawrenceville. “Anti-immigrant, anti a lot of things. They’re not addressing the real issues.”

Racial and economic inequality were on the minds of some voters.

Geraldine McDonald, 77, of Roswell, said the next president should “fight against racism” and promote “equality for all citizens.”

“Me being an African American, racism is something I’ve had to deal with for 77 years,” said McDonald.

Wren Howell, 20, of Lawrenceville said he sees “the growing inequality between the rich and the poor” as one of the most important issues the next president should address.

Early numbers for metro Atlanta counties continue to climb as Election Day approaches, but remain lower than expected in some counties

Fulton County reported that 2,176 people voted Saturday, bringing the total early ballots cast in the county to 10,683.

“I was hoping to be doing 5,000 a day by now,” said Rick Barron, director of elections and registration for Fulton County.

Gwinnett County reported that 2,190 county residents voted Saturday. So far, 4,991 people have gone to the polls, according to the county’s unofficial tally.

Early numbers for Cobb County show 718 residents voted Saturday, with a total of 4,357 ballots cast in person and 2,158 by mail so far.

Early voting in Georgia runs through Feb. 26.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.