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Election Day closing in

2008 has been an unprecedented election year for the candidates campaigning, the voters registering and going to polls early, and the elections officials working behind-the-scenes to make sure things run smoothly.

Elections offices around Georgia have seen lines of people waiting to register to vote or cast their ballots in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election, which will decide who will become the next U.S. president. More than 1.5 million people have already voted early. More than 550,000 Georgians have registered to vote in 2008.

The Decatur County Board of Elections office in the Courthouse Annex has been buzzing with activity since absentee voting without an excuse began on Sept. 22. Thousands of Decatur County citizens cast absentee ballots using a voting machine or by mailing in a paper ballot. Hundreds of people streamed into the elections office every day during this past week, when advance voting was conducted.

The elections office was filled with elections staff and volunteers helping people to fill out voting paperwork and directing them to an electronic voting machine to cast their vote.

The offices of Chief Elections Officer Doris White and Clerk of Elections Erica Hamilton were filled with stacks of boxes and paperwork related to the election, most of it sent from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Elections Division in Atlanta. Longtime elections worker Cotton Hester was helping White and Hamilton, who have been working long hours since early voting began, to keep track of what needed to be looked at and processed.

A picture of Decatur County voters
As of Oct. 24, 2008, there were 16,246 registered voters in Decatur County, or about 56.9 percent of the county’s estimated 2007 population, according to the Secretary of State and U.S. Census statistics.

Of registered voters, 14,399 were classified as active voters, while 1,847 were inactive voters. Among active voters, there are 8,888 white persons, or about 61.7 percent, and 5,126 blacks, or about 35.6 percent. Among inactive voters, there are 1,052 whites, or about 57 percent and 756 blacks, or about 40.9 percent. Hispanics and Asians each accounted for less than 1 percent of active and inactive voters, respectively.

Voters aged 18-29 made up about 21.9 percent of all registered voters as of Oct. 1, 2008, about 2.6 percent more than in 2004. Voters aged 50-59 now make up about 18.6 percent of all registered voters, about 1 percent more than in 2004. All other age groups saw a decline, although voters aged 60 or older continued to make up the largest portion of registered voters, with about 26.7 percent.

Black males have seen the largest percentage increase among registered voters since 2000: they now make up about 13.5 percent, or about 1.3 percent more than in 2000. Black females now make up about 21.8 percent, or about 0.7 percent more than in 2000. White males now make up about 29.7 percent, or about 1.23 percent less than in 2000. White females now make up about 35 percent, or about 0.75 percent less than in 2000.

White females aged 60 or older are the largest block of registered county voters, with a total of 1,507, or about 11 percent of all registered voters as of Oct. 1.

Decatur County’s voter registration rolls have increased by 611 persons just between Oct. 1-24. White estimated her office had processed more than 1,000 voter registration applications since September, although some could have been sent in by people who were already registered to vote.

It will not be possible to vote on Monday, Nov. 3. People who have not already voted can cast ballots at their polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 4, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To locate a polling place or obtain more election information, visit sos.georgia.gov online or call the local elections office at 243-2087.