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Middle Georgia residents flex voting muscles

People line up to vote at the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections on Nov. 4, 2016.
People line up to vote at the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections on Nov. 4, 2016. wmarshall@macon.com

Middle Georgia voters came out in force during the early voting period, leading to high turnout expectations on Election Day.

The general election — highlighted by the presidential battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — will be decided Tuesday when voters head to the polls. In Houston, Bibb and Monroe counties, if early voting is any indication, people will continue flocking to precincts to cast their ballots.

The strong advance voting turnout could mean shorter lines on Election Day, especially in Houston County. About 46 percent of active voters, or 36,581 people, had voted through Thursday.

The election is trending similar to the 2012 presidential election, when more people voted early in the county than on Election Day. That year there about 25,000 people came to the polls on the Tuesday while another 31,000 voted early, Houston County Election Assistant Andy Holland said.

In the 2008 presidential election there were about 27,000 people who voted both early and on Election Day.

“In 2012, we saw it tilt more toward early voting and now this year even further in that direction,” Holland said. “I think every election a few more people become aware of (early voting). Three weeks of early voting is more convenient instead of Election Day. If you have time to get off work and take a long lunch break you can get it over with.”

In Monroe County, there has been a higher number of people who don’t normally vote that came out for early voting. There’s an increased excitement level among voters, said Kaye Warren, registration manager for the Monroe County Board of Elections.

Before the final day of early voting, Monroe had 6,257 early and absentee voters. The county has more than 18,000 registered voters and this election so far has drawn a higher number of voters than 2012.

“We’ve been so busy during early voting,” Warren said. “This morning we had about 100 (voters) in less than an hour and it’s been steady since. I’m sure we’ll have a lot on Election Day, too.”

Not only has there been a steady flow of people at Macon-Bibb County’s two early voting sites, but this election period also had a strong number of people registering to vote. Macon-Bibb now has over 101,000 registered voters and about 86,000 actives ones, Elections Superintendent Jeanetta Watson said.

“It’s still going to be busy at the polls (Tuesday). In a general presidential year you could see 70 percent turnout so we’re well on the way,” Watson said

This election’s advanced voting totals could top 2008’s numbers when a 45 day early voting period ended with about 29,000 people casting ballots. This election’s three week early voting cycle ended Friday.

Through Thursday about 27,000 people voted early.

“We may break a record and go over that 2008 early voting total today, which would be great,” Watson said Friday afternoon.

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph

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