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Early voting under way in Dawson

POSTED: October 5, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Georgia jumped on the early-voting-bandwagon, along with 35 other states making accommodations for all voters to cast their ballots up to six weeks before Election Day, if so desired.



A new state law, Senate Bill 387, came into effect at the beginning of September, which allows for registered voters to cast their ballots as early as 45 days prior to an election. Formerly known as absentee voting, early voting began Sept. 22 and will last until. Oct. 24.



On Sept, 1, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed off on the new law, which enables all registered voters to participate in early voting. The Department of Justice approved the law almost three weeks ago.



Under the old absentee voting policies, voters were required to meet one of 11 criteria in order to cast a vote prior to an election day. Acceptable reasons to engage in absentee voting included being disabled, elderly, a public servant, a disability caregiver, in the military or if a voter would be out of precinct on Election Day.



The new law has abolished those criteria.



Now, registered voters can cast their ballots in person at their local election offices during the early voting period, without citing any reason whatsoever.



Before the passage of Senate Bill 387, only mail-in ballots were accepted so far in advance.



Glenda Ferguson, chairwoman of the local Board of Elections and Registration, favors the new law because it makes voting easier to incorporate into citizens’ busy schedules and will decrease heavy traffic on Election Day itself.



“This law gives voters more of an opportunity to get out and vote. It’s trying to prevent long lines on Election Day and to give the public more reasons to vote, especially with such a major election coming up in November,” said Ferguson.



“The more people who take advantage of early voting, the less stress it will be for voters and poll-workers,” she added.



The new early voting law aims to make voting as easy as possible, so all citizens will take full advantage of their right to vote.



“We are hoping that enough people will vote early so the lines will lessen on Nov. 4,” explained Ferguson. “We are anticipating handling more votes this time around.”



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