Cox wants to expand early voting -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Cox wants to expand early voting

February 2, 2005

Albany - Georgia voters may get two weeks to cast their ballots in the next election. Secretary of State Cathy Cox wants to expand the early voting period from one week to two.

More than 4,000 people in Dougherty County took advantage of early voting for the November election, packing the elections office the week before election day to cast ballots.

Election Supervisor Carolyn Hatcher didn't anticipated early voting would be so successful. "It gave them a chance to come in at their leisure, more or less, during that one week," said Hatcher.

Statewide, nearly 390,000 people voted the week before the election -- just under 12 % of registered voters. Because of its success, Secretary of State Cathy Cox hopes to expand early voting to two weeks. Tuesday, Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, of Atlanta, introduced a bill on Cox's behalf lengthening early voting.

However, a longer early voting period could be a real headache for elections officials. Hatcher says she may have to hire more staff to handle early voting while still mailing absentee ballots and preparing polling sites for election day. And, she'll have to find a bigger space. "The problem we're going to have is that in a big election we're going to have to have it somewhere other than this office," said Hatcher. "We just didn't have the room for people to wait, so that's what we're looking into for the future."

The bill would also allow local election officials to hold advanced voting during evening hours and on Saturdays.

Cathy Cox, who recently announced she plans to run for Governor, had pushed for longer early voting periods before last year's changes were approved. The presidential primary last spring was the first time Georgians could vote early without having a reason why they couldn't come to the polls on election day.

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