CONYERS - Rockdale County voters who waited until today to vote in the General Election will likely face lines at their polling precincts but not as long as those expected in other counties.
Rockdale County was one of a handful of counties that achieved greater than 50 percent of total registered voters casting a ballot during the early voting period that ended Friday. County election officials reported receiving ballots from 54 percent of all voters, so far.
The office also mailed out 2,126 absentee ballots and had received 1,398 ballots back.
Rockdale County had the third highest turnout in the state during the early voting period, percentage wise. Henry County had 56.3 percent of registered voters casting early ballots, followed by Rabun County with 56 percent and Rockdale County with 53.98 percent, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Newton County had 45 percent early voter turnout, good for 13th place out of the 159 counties in Georgia.
But the state's four most populous counties, home to one-third of registered voters, recorded much lower voter turnout. Only 39 percent of voters in DeKalb County voted early. Cobb County had 31 percent, followed by 26 percent in Fulton County and 25 percent in Gwinnett County.
Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said she did not shift any of the county's 170 voting machines from one precinct to another since the early turnout was generally high across the board without much difference from one precinct to another.
The high early voter turnout will mean more voting machines available for voters. However, Welch said lines will still form during peak hours - early morning, lunch and after work.
Part of the reason for lines to be expected is that this is the first presidential election since Georgia has required photo identification for anyone to cast a ballot in person. Another reason is that there will be fewer poll workers at the precincts than what was seen during the early voting period.
"The first thing I will tell people is to bring their photo ID and a lot of patience," she said. "We were able to move people through pretty fast in early voting because we had a big staff. It will be a little slower because of that."
Welch said early and absentee ballots are a good indicator of turnout on Election Day. She anticipated about an 85 percent total turnout when balloting is finished tonight. She said her office has a goal to keep wait times below two hours.
Provisional ballots will be offered to voters who have a problem producing proper ID or proving residency. Provisional ballots will be counted only if the voter goes to the Board of Elections office on Parker Road to validate their ballot.
In other news, the Rockdale County Board of Elections and Voter Registration will open all mailed absentee ballots beginning at 3 p.m. and run them through the optical scanner. The ballots will be tallied after the polls close at 7 p.m.
The opening of the mailed absentee ballots is open to the public for observation, but they will be sequestered in the room in which all the ballots are opened and run through the scanner, Welch said.
The Rockdale County Republican Party will have two poll watchers assigned to each of the county's 18 precincts today to observe the vote. Poll watchers will have the same access as poll workers, but cannot interfere with the election or talk to voters. The Georgia Democratic Party has filed for poll watchers across the state and notified Welch they may come to a Rockdale precinct.
Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org