BRACK: Early voting is available in 34 states, popular in Georgia

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Early voting is popular in Georgia. Here in Gwinnett, about one-third of the votes cast are done in early voting.

Proponents of early voting say that you get a larger turnout this way, since it is more convenient to those registered to have several days to vote, instead of being required to vote only one day, that is, Election Day.

Opponents to early voting maintain that voters may make ill-informed decisions when they vote early. After all, what is something comes out about a candidate after the citizen has already voted?  They can’t “take-back” their vote if they find that their choice of candidate may be ill-advised because of some turn of events.

But sometimes, you wonder: while early voting is popular, did the Legislature go too far in setting the parameters for early voting.  It’s almost to the point, as one observer put it, that October seems to become “voting month” in Georgia. It’s not that bad, but seems so.

By the way, when there are federal candidates on the ballot (for instance, for an election for Congress, or for the presidency), a government must mail out absentee ballots 45 days in advance of Election Day. This allows people living overseas, such as deployed military, enough time to get their ballots by mail, and return them in time to be counted. For in-person absentee voting, it starts the fourth Monday before the Election Day.

There’s another element about early voting: it can cost governments for three people to operate the polls during early voting. There must be a manager, plus two assistant managers, on duties all day. That’s so there is transparency in voting, and no one person is charged with this.

Some cities, such as Grayson, allow regular members of their municipal staff to be the early voting officials. This way, it doesn’t cost the Grayson additional funds to maintain the early voting opening times. City Clerk Laura Cone tells me that they set up for early voting in the City Hall Conference Room. The staff continues their regular duties, then go into the Conference Room when someone comes in to vote.

The current law says that early voting will start “four Mondays prior to election day.”  With that the case this year, the election day for 2017 city elections is November 7, so early voting must commence on October 16.

For Gwinnett County in state or county elections, early voting is only done at the county election office in Lawrenceville 21 days in advance. For elections in 2018, the Gwinnett poll at the Election Center will be open four Mondays prior to the election date. However, for the week prior to election week, Gwinnett operates seven satellite locations for voting. These locations for the 2016 election were at Bogan Park Recreation Center, Dacula Park Activity Building, George Pearce Park Community Center, Shorty Howell Park Community Center, Lenora Park Activity Room, Lucky Shoals Community Center, and Mountain Park Activity Building.

While early voting is gaining in popularity throughout the nation, with 34 states allowing some form of early voting. However, there is no early voting in13 other states.

And there’s one more ripple: Three states conduct their entire election by mail, the states of Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Now that these states have perfected it, it sounds like a worthy goal for other states to consider.

One more voting fact: In Gwinnett, as of August 1, there were 479,268 people registered to vote.

CORRECTION: Through a transferring error, the listing of Catholic churches in Gwinnett somehow left off St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, which has not only a church, but also a regional school with K through 8 classes. It has six masses per weekend, so the number of Catholic masses in Gwinnett is 64, not 58! We apologize for this overt omission.

See the revised listing of Catholic Churches adjacent.