By Mark Niesse – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kristal Dixon – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ben Brasch – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tyler Estep – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga
Eager Georgia voters swarmed to polling places Monday morning for the start of three weeks of early voting before Election Day.
Voters waited in lines and filled parking lots to lock in their choices in advance of Nov. 3.
Even before a voting site in Cobb County opened at 7 a.m., voters wrapped around the building and filled most of a parking lot. Spaced 6-feet apart, almost all voters wore masks during the wait to cast their ballots at The Art Place-Blackbox Theatre in East Cobb.
Early voting sites include State Farm Arena, a former Atlanta Hawks star’s training facility, government offices and even a busfilled with voting touchscreens.
All registered voters are eligible to participate in early voting, allowing them to pick a time that fits their schedule and avoid lines on Nov. 3. Voters must cast their ballots in the county where they’re registered, but they can choose any location within their county.
Early lines were created by unprecedented interest and social distancing requirements, but election officials said their goal is to keep lines moving and avoid problems like those seen in Georgia’s primary. In the June 9 election, high turnout, poll worker shortages and difficulties with voting equipment led to waits of over three hours in some areas.
In-person early voters will join the 430,000 Georgia voters who have already returned their absentee ballots. By the time Election Day finally arrives, over two-thirds of the state’s 5 million projected turnout will have already voted.
Early voters will use Georgia’s new voting system, which combines familiar touchscreens with the addition of printed-out paper ballots. Voters will be able to review their choices on the paper printout before inserting it into an optical scanner.
A judge’s ruling late Sunday allowed Georgia to continue using the voting system, turning down an effort from election security advocates to switch to paper ballots filled out by hand.
The early voting experience will also be different from years past because of coronavirus-related safety precautions.
Voters will be spaced 6-feet apart and separated from poll workers by Plexiglass shields when they check in. Elections equipment will be frequently wiped down and sanitized. Voters will be provided with styluses if they don’t want to use their fingers on touchscreens.
There are over 60 early voting locations in metro Atlanta’s four core counties, including more than 30 in Fulton County alone.
Voters can find early voting sites and hours county elections website or on the state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
Early voting lasts from Oct. 12 to Oct. 30, including a Saturday on Oct. 24.
— Staff writer Shaddi Abusaid contributed to this article.