CONYERS - Rockdale County residents will find it harder this year to come up with an excuse not to vote in the Nov. 4 general election thanks to some new initiatives planned in the coming months by the county Board of Elections and Voter Registration.
The interest in the presidential elections and a spike in voter registration this year has led Election Supervisor Cynthia Welch to predict 80 percent of registered voters will turnout for the Nov. 4 general election.
Voter turnout was low - less than 20 percent statewide - during the primary election in July. However, Welch warned that the general election will be very different and encouraged voters to take advantage of the early voting this fall to avoid long lines or delays on Election Day.
The Board of Elections will have 200 poll workers working on what is considered the biggest election day of the year. Poll workers will have hand-held devices to check voters in line as an effort to make the process more effectively, but Welch said the sheer volume of voters could bog things down at some precincts.
Welch said her office are considering ways to get sample ballots available to the public ahead of time to help voters review their choices before walking up to the voting machine. She said voter registration at the Elections Office has been steady and there have been several registration drives organized throughout the county.
As of Sept. 1 Rockdale County had 46,472 registered voters, 1,041 new voters from the previous month.
· Advance voting
Registered voters can cast a ballot in person at the Board of Elections office at 1400 Parker Road, Lobby C, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning on Friday, Sept. 19, through Friday, Oct. 24.
A change in the state election laws removes the requirement that voters provide a reason to cast an in-person absentee ballot. Voters only need to be registered to vote and able to provide one of the six approved forms of photo identification at the polls.
The change renders the difference between absentee and advance voting periods moot to voters and means that anybody who wants to vote can do so 45 days before Election Day, said Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch.
The Board of Elections will stay open for extended hours through 7 p.m. for advance voting Wednesday, Oct. 29, through Friday, Oct. 31 - the week before Election Day - just as they had done for the July 15 primary election.
Also, Rockdale County will be the only county in Georgia to offer in-person voting on a Saturday. Polls at the Board of Elections office will be open 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25.
· Saturday voting
Welch said she obtained approval to open a polling place during the weekend after several voters who commute to Atlanta for work commented to her that even with early voting it was difficult for them to make it to the elections office before closing.
"We ask ourselves why people are not voting and think of all kind of things, but we need to look at our side and ask ourselves, are we doing all we can to help people vote," Welch said. "I hope this can be something voters can take advantage of."
The extended voting is service-driven to make it more convenient for residents to cast ballots, but Welch said another motive is an effort to keep the lines down at the polling precincts on Election Day.
Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.