One-third of Fayette has already voted

4th location opens for early voting

Aside from the questions on the Nov. 6 ballot, the other question is how many people will be left to vote on election day? As of Tuesday morning, more than 24,000 of Fayette County’s 82,000 eligible voters had already cast their ballots in early voting. When you add the more than 2,300 absentee ballots already returned, that’s nearly one-third of the entire Fayette voting pool.

More than 2,000 cast ballots during Saturday voting, Fayette election officials said.

Voters who remained in line when the polls closed at 4 p.m. Saturday were allowed to vote though the line was closed to latecomers, elections officials said. A similar procedure is in place for election day Nov. 6 when polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lines for early voting have been long in Fayetteville, but not so much in Peachtree City and Tyrone. That said, 24,173 early voting ballots had been cast as of mid-day Tuesday. Added to the mix of voters are the 2,323 absentee ballots that have been received by the elections office. Well over 3,000 absentee ballots were requested.

This week a fourth location has opened for early voters: the county commission chamber on the lower level of the county’s Stonewall government complex in downtown Fayetteville. Voters will also be able to vote from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the county elections office in the same complex, on the lower level of the Peachtree City Library and also at Tyrone Town Hall.

No matter where they live, voters can still cast a ballot at any of the four early voting locations.

The benefit of having the commission chamber available for voting is that it holds more people, providing a warm refuge from the colder weather, said Elections Supervisor Tom Sawyer. Some voters had to wait outside under a covered walkway the past two weeks when voting early at the county elections office, though not under the cold weather that struck Fayette County this week.

“It’s been a big turnout,” Sawyer said. “We are doing everything we can to accomodate them as quickly as we can and with as little amount of waiting as possible.”

Early voting ends Friday at 5 p.m., and if you can’t make it by then you will have to wait until election day Tuesday, Nov. 6 and vote at your regular precinct location, Sawyer said.

If the early voting line is what you’re hoping to avoid, a short trip to Tyrone might be in order, as voting staff there have a consistently shorter wait time compared to the Fayetteville and Peachtree City locations, elections officials have said.

It is also noted that Fayetteville voters have to cast separate ballots on two different machines because the municipal question on the potential adoption of a tax allocation district (TAD) must occur on a separate machine, Sawyer said. That has extended the voting process briefly for some voters, he noted.

With rough weather and massive power outages in the news due to Hurricane Sandy hitting the northeast corridor, Sawyer noted that the county has brand-new backup batteries in all of its voting machines this year. The batteries typically last four to five hours, allowing for machines to be staggered in case of a complete power outage so they can last during the entire 12-hour voting period.

Sawyer said the county’s voting machines do not need constant power to maintain the data from ballots that have already been cast.

As for the ballot, and aside from the obvious presidential race, Fayette voters will find several local issues to decide on. Voters countywide will decide on the Fayette County Board of Education race for the Post 2 seat that features incumbent Terri Smith — who switched her party affiliation this year to Democrat — and Republican challenger Mary Kay Bacallao. Smith had run and been elected three previous times as a Republican.

Also on the ballot will be a continuation of the 1 percent educational sales tax (E-SPLOST) for Fayette County public schools and a constitutional amendment that authorizes state-funded charter schools.

Specific to Fayetteville, and available for votes to be cast only at the Fayetteville Library and the Lafayette Education Center on Lafayette Avenue by Fayetteville residents, is the Redevelopment Authority Powers referendum that would provide a vehicle for the redevelopment of failing commercial areas.

— Additional reporting by John Munford