November 7, 2017 Atlanta: Garrett Clum brought his dog, Beau to vote on Tuesday. Voters lined up early at Henry W. Grady High School at 929 Charles Allen Dr NE in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 to cast their votes. Only about 20,000 of 250,000 registered voters cast early ballots in Atlanta’s mayoral election, a likely sign of low turnout for Tuesday’s vote to succeed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. A late WSB-TV poll, released on Friday, showed Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms leading Councilwoman Mary Norwood for the first time with 25 percent of the vote to Norwood’s 23 percent.  JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Nonpartisan Georgia voters will miss out on major races

Georgia voters who consider themselves independents will have to pick a political party if they want to participate in primary elections for governorsecretary of state and state legislative races.

Voters won’t be able to take part in the state’s biggest races if they ask for a nonpartisan ballot for the May 22 primary election. Republican and Democratic primary contests only appear on partisan ballots.

Georgia has open primaries, which means voters can choose either party’s ballot without having to register with that party.

Voters should review sample ballots online or at voting locations before deciding which one they want to use, said Erica Hamilton, DeKalb County’s elections director.

Many voters are accustomed to general elections in November, when all races appear on the same ballot, she said.

The only contested statewide race on nonpartisan ballots is for a judgeship on the Georgia Court of Appeals, where Ken Hodges faces Ken Shigley. Some areas have local nonpartisan races for judges, county commissioners and school board members.

Early voting for the primary election began April 30 and lasts until May 18.

The vast majority of voters have pulled partisan ballots so far, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Through Wednesday, 46,660 people had voted on Republican Party ballots compared to 41,766 Democratic Party voters. Another 1,782 voters, or 2 percent of the total, used nonpartisan ballots.

RELATED: AJC voter guide from the League of Women Voters

More information: Visit for full coverage of Georgia’s key races. 

Early voting began Monday, April 30 for Georgia's primary elections.

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