Early voting began Sept. 20 and runs weekdays until Oct. 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bartow County Voter Registration Office, 105 North Bartow St. in Cartersville. As of Monday afternoon, 1,288 voters have visited the office to cast their ballots, according to Bartow County Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk. Those who have utilized the early access to polling machines, Kirk said, have so far experienced no lines and no wait times.
Kirk added that his office has issued 1,047 absentee ballots by mail, with 450 already returned. The county had 48,324 registered voters as of the Aug. 10 primary runoff election. With the 1,738 ballots already in, turnout in this year's general election already stands at 3.6 percent.
"It's more in the mail than we expected, and it's actually a little bit less [than we expected] in the office," Kirk said. "I was hoping for a bigger turnout, but I think what's going on is a lot of people haven't made up their minds yet, and we've seen a lot more informed voters this time coming in with really intelligent questions, really thinking through the process, and I applaud them for that.
"But what I'm hoping is that they make their mind up by a week before the election and hit advanced voting," he added. The Cartersville Civic Center becomes a second polling place the week of Oct. 25 when advanced voting is rolled out there; its hours of operation also will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kirk said that week of advanced voting likely will see more voters than the weeks of early voting. "A lot of people, I think, feel more comfortable voting the week prior than the month prior, because people do think about what's happened in the campaign, what if something came out. And once you vote, you can't take it back," he said.
While Kirk said that voters seem to be watching the candidates closer this year than perhaps in past years, that hesitation should not have a negative impact on the turnout. He is expecting a 50 percent turnout by the time the polls close Nov. 2. That prediction, he said, is based on the trend of rising turnout rates in presidential and gubernatorial elections.
While presidential elections still have a larger turnout than gubernatorial ones, he said, the turnouts are rising the same rates. With the turnout of the last gubernatorial election in 2006 at 45 percent, he believes this year's participation likely will move up to 50 percent, if not higher.
"I do think we're going to have a much higher turnout than we had originally predicted on election day, so we've hired 20 poll workers and training starts Tuesday," he said, but adding that early voting takes pressure off poll workers, and offers a greater likelihood of little to no wait.
For those who want to see what happens in the waning days of the political season, or for voters who wait until the last day, all county polling locations will be open Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.