Moultrie Observer

May 15, 2014

Early voting closes today

Alan Mauldin
The Moultrie Observer

MOULTRIE — This article has been corrected from its original version.

With early voting coming to a close today, officials said the number of those who have cast ballots is down from previous non-presidential primary years.

Officials are uncertain whether that is due to elections being moved up two months, a number of days of bad weather during the three weeks of early voting or more people are planning to vote on election day.

During a presidential primary, about half of all primary ballots in 2008 and 2012 were cast during the early voting period, said Colquitt County Probate Court Judge Wes Lewis, whose office is in charge of voting. That compares to about 25 percent of total voters who cast their ballots early in years when there is no presidential primary.

Through 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, a total 1,109 county residents had voted early. Of those, 104 were cast that day, and 55 on Saturday. An additional 68 absentee ballots have been mailed.

Due to the state moving the primary election from July to May to comply with a federal judge’s order that overseas military members be given sufficient time to get ballots to their local election offices, early voting came as parents are dealing with all of the activity of school winding down.

That could be one factor limiting early voting, which is not too far off the mark from previous elections, Lewis said. However, officials had expected that turnout could be larger because of the number of competitive local races on the ballot, including Colquitt County Commission chairman and commission Districts 3 and 5, which are on the Republican ballot only.

There also are contested nonpartisan contests for Superior Court of the Southern Judicial Circuit and Colquitt County School Board District 5.

In addition, there are seven candidates on the Republican ballot seeking to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. There are four Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to face the Republican nominee.

One thing to remember is that in order to vote in the contested county commission races, voters must select a Republican ballot. The contest for county commission chairman is a countywide race.

Regardless of whether one selects a Democratic, Republican or nonpartisan ballot, it will contain the contested nonpartisan races.

With that many competitive contests, Lewis said that many people could show up next week.

“It could lead to a bigger turnout on Tuesday,” he said. “With the number of local races we have, I think the turnout is going to be good.”

Still, with this being the first time voters have gone to the polls in May, he was not sure.

“We’ll see,” Lewis said. “It will be interesting after it’s all said and done. I’m sure the political scientists and gurus will be studying it. We’re ready regardless.”

With the various party primaries, county district elections and nonpartisan ballot, there is a significant number of different ballot configurations. Voters can get online information on their voter registration status, poll location and sample ballots at the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page at mvp.sos.state.ga.us. For those with Android or iPhone cell telephones there also is the free Ga Votes app that provides that information.

They also may call Lewis’ office at (229) 616-7415 or the office of Paula McCullough, Colquitt County chief voter registrar, at (229) 616-7056.

One thing voters should remember on Tuesday, when polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., is that they must show up at their voting precinct and not the courthouse annex building where early voting is held, she said.

The lower-than-normal turnout is not just in Colquitt County, McCullough said.

“I’ve talked to other people in other counties, and they’re saying it’s been slow too,” she said.

For those wanting to get in the last day of early voting, the polls are open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the courthouse annex, 101 E. Central Ave. Absentee ballots also must be mailed today and arrive at the registrar’s office by Tuesday to be counted.