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Early voting starts Monday

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POSTED: October 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA -- About six week remain until election day, but voting gets under way on Monday throughout Georgia.

Turnout is expected to shatter records amid intense interest in the race for the White House. Georgia — like many states — has seen a surge in voter registration. Nearly 100,000 new voters registered in the state in August alone. More are expected before the state's Oct. 6 voter registration deadline.

That's likely to translate into long lines at polling places on Nov. 4.

State officials maintain they're ready but also are urging Georgians to vote early and avoid the crush.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is among those who will take advantage of voting Monday and is encouraging others to get it out of the way early.

Secretary of State Karen Handel projects that about one-quarter of Georgia voters will have cast ballots before election day this year. That would be the highest percentage the state has seen in recent history. She said some counties plan to have voting available on Saturdays to give voters even more options to cast a ballot in advance.

Expanded early voting provisions and fewer restrictions on absentee voting have been allowing more people to vote early in Georgia.

Rebecca Wallace, president of the League of Women Voters Georgia, praised the state for giving voters more opportunities to cast a ballot. But she questioned whether those who vote more than 40 days before the election will be as educated as they should.

"Considering we haven't seen the presidential candidates debate yet, for instance, I'm concerned people are not yet equipped with enough information," she said.

She added that Handel only recently finalized the ballot, which contains three constitutional amendments. The league is still finalizing their analysis of them and won't have them out to their members before Monday, she said.

There are three ways to vote early:

—Request, fill out and return an absentee ballot. Georgia recently changed its law to eliminate the requirement that absentee voters must have a valid excuse for voting absentee. Officials will begin mailing out absentee ballots on Monday to those who have requested them.

—Early voting, also referred to as absentee ballot in person, begins Monday. Voting is generally limited to just a handful of locations in each county or the office of the county registrar.

—Advance voting takes the place the week of Oct. 27-31. More locations are available than early voting but not as many sites will be operating as there will be on election day.

Voters should contact their county registrar with questions about voting locations or requirements.

To cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 election in Georgia you must have registered to vote by Oct. 6. Those casting a ballot in person must present a valid, government-issued photo ID.

 

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