Time is winding down for metro Atlanta residents to vote early in primary

Emilio Perey fills out the paperwork at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta on the last Saturday of early voting, May 14, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

caption arrowCaption
Emilio Perey fills out the paperwork at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta on the last Saturday of early voting, May 14, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Saturday was a mandatory day for counties to have sites open; Friday is final day

When Sunday rolled around, more than 400,000 Georgia voters had already cast their ballots in this year’s primary.

For residents not wanting to wait until election day on May 24 to head to the polls, Friday will be the last day of early voting.

On Saturday afternoon, Tabitha Stickel hadn’t planned to vote while taking a walk through Bessie Branham Park, but when she saw signs pointing to early voting she called Ben Pruyne and asked him to bring their identification from home.

In August, Stickel, 34, and Pruyne, 33, moved to Kirkwood from rural Pennsylvania.

This would be their first experience voting as residents of metro Atlanta and they had many urgent concerns.

“Roe v. Wade, gun control, voter rights and health care,” Stickel said.

“It feels like the world is in a pretty intense phase right now,” Pruyne said.

Pruyne’s sentiment was shared by many metro residents who turned out to the polls on Saturday during the final weekend of early voting. Saturday was the final weekend day of early voting required by state law. Some counties, including DeKalb and Fulton, had polling places open Sunday as an optional day as directed by the state.

Voters appeared to take advantage of the weekend hours with twice as many Georgians casting ballots Saturday compared to the previous Saturday, with turnout reaching 28,000.

Friday had the highest daily turnout of early voting with more than 43,000 Georgians voting in the primary election that day. The turnout since May 2 has skewed heavily Republican with more than 234,000 Republican ballots cast as of Saturday compared to about 171,000 Democratic ballots.

This year’s primary features races for Georgia governor, the U.S. Senate, statewide offices and the General Assembly.

Sydney Boggess was pleased that voting went smoothly Saturday at Bessie Branham Recreation Center, where she was voting early for the first time. The Candler Park resident votes in every primary election, but usually she goes to Coan Recreation Center. However, that was not among the early voting locations in DeKalb County this time.

In 2020, Boggess, 33, had voted absentee but when she could not find a record of her ballot, she went to vote in-person, signing an affidavit to invalidate her mailed ballot. “I feel like elections are set up for us to fail,” she said. “They are trying to make it harder for you to vote.”

Boggess said she spent time researching candidates before going out to the polls.

“We did research to pick the most progressive candidates,” she said. “I am concerned about climate change, Roe v. Wade ... what I am not concerned with is public safety and increasing police funding.”

ExploreThe latest Georgia election news

Assistant poll manager Antionette Worrell said a steady stream of voters had been to the polling place, which is located near the park entrance — where hundreds of festivalgoers were arriving to attend the annual Kirkwood Spring Fling.

Worrell said the festival emcee would be making periodic announcements from the stage reminding residents to vote. “Everything is running smoothly, just the way we like it,” she said.

Anticipating a crowd, Fulton County voters David Watkins and Emilio Perey arrived at Metropolitan Library well in advance of the 9 a.m. opening.

caption arrowCaption
David Watkins casts his vote at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta on the last Saturday of early voting, May 14, 2022, in this year's general primary. (Photo: Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

David Watkins casts his vote at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta on the last Saturday of early voting, May 14, 2022, in this year's general primary. (Photo: Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

caption arrowCaption
David Watkins casts his vote at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta on the last Saturday of early voting, May 14, 2022, in this year's general primary. (Photo: Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Watkins, 44, who recently completed training to become an ICU nurse, is focused on health care concerns during this election season.

Noting the latest political fight over the scarcity of baby formula, Watkins said health care needs a more balanced approach for young and old. “If we don’t take care of both ends of the spectrum, it will all fall apart,” he said.

Emilio Perey, 66, who traveled to the polling place with Watkins, said everything has become politicized. “Democracy is totally askew,” he said.

He voted for candidates whom he believes will help set things on the right path. “I think deep down inside people are good and they know a lie. Democracy is threatened but you have to be reminded and a good reminder is what is happening in the Ukraine,” Perey said.

Morvette Pritchard, an Atlanta resident who teaches at a school in Clayton County, said the pandemic has really impacted students and she wants to see state leadership doing more to support education including addressing the issue of student loans.

She would also like to see more attention given to local infrastructure. “The infrastructure is horrible in Atlanta,” she said. “I am here for the politicians who are there for that.”

Early voting continues Monday through Friday. Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on May 24, the day of the general primary.

Local elections offices (Clayton | Cobb | DeKalb | Fulton | Gwinnett) have information online regarding early voting, absentee ballot drop box locations and more.

Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.

About the Author

Editors' Picks