MARIETTA — Voters stood in line and waited in their cars for hours at Cobb County’s main elections office on the last day of early voting Friday. The office expects voters will have a similar experience at polling precincts on Election Day, which is Tuesday.

Cobb Elections: Expect lines

Janine Eveler, director of the county elections department, said Friday morning that the office was already busy with many voters waiting to cast their ballots. Some voters told the MDJ they waited for three hours to receive a ticket, be called back and enter the building. On the elections department website, wait time estimates at the county’s five early voting locations ranged from two to over four hours.

Eveler said longer waits are partially a result of the election office’s efforts to practice social distancing and mitigate spread of the coronavirus. She added that voters should check the “My Voter Page” on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website because some polling locations have recently changed.

“It will be very busy, so as we’ve been stating all along, voters are going to be spaced out, so there will be fewer people allowed in the poll at any one time. There’s going to be sanitizing going on throughout the day, which will take additional time,” she said. “So people should expect to wait in line on Election Day.”

A total of 8,838 people have voted early in-person in Cobb County through Thursday. Of those, 5,862 have voted on Democratic ballots and 2,898 have voted on Republican ballots. Seventy-eight people have voted with nonpartisan ballots.

The county has received 75,687 absentee ballots as of Thursday, and 66,487 more ballots are outstanding and have not been turned in, the elections director said. Of the absentee ballots that have been returned, 38,808 were Democratic ballots, 34,668 were Republican and 2,211 were nonpartisan.

Eveler said the number of absentee ballots is “higher than any previous election.

“In-person advance voting turnout has been comparable to the 2016 general primary, but lower than the 2016 presidential primary and the 2018 general primary.

“We’ve never combined a presidential primary with a general primary; this is the first time we’ve done this,” she said.

National politics on Cobb ballots

Which Republican wins the primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, in November and which Democrat wins to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, are two of the biggest races to watch, said Kerwin Swint, director of Kennesaw State University’s School of Government and International Affairs.

Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, is in the best position to face off against McBath, but Swint said it remains in question whether she can avoid a runoff.

“What we’re looking for in the 6th (Congressional District) is Karen Handel’s margin, first of all to see if she avoids a runoff, and if so, by how much,” he said. “I think there are four other candidates running, and she’s easily the favored to win the nomination, but the question is can she do it without a runoff, and if she can show substantial strength in initial voting. If she gets 60% of the vote in a five-candidate field, that’s very significant. That gives her a hit of steam going into the general (election) against McBath if that happens.”

Swint said U.S. Senate hopeful Jon Ossoff is likely to win the Democratic nomination to run against Perdue in November.

“(Ossoff’s) been leading in the polls, he’s got a pretty significant financial edge over the other Democratic candidates, like (Teresa) Tomlinson,” he said. “Whoever wins that, that will be a featured race nationally, in Georgia to watch, to see if Perdue goes on to his Senate seat, which could be related to how well Trump does in Georgia, that could help Perdue or hurt him.”

Cobb sheriff and chair primaries

Locally, many residents are watching the primaries for sheriff, Swint said.

“Neil Warren, has been, of course, a well-known figure and for a lot of people a controversial figure, but among Republicans a very respected figure, someone with really deep roots in the community, very active in the community,” he said. “(The Democratic candidates are) lesser known, but the Democratic party is up and coming in Cobb County, and so it could be a close race in November.”

Swint believes Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce has an advantage in his bid for reelection in the Republican primary against Larry Savage and Ricci Mason, but whether he defends his seat against Democratic challenger and commissioner Lisa Cupid may depend on how voters respond to the incumbent’s record on taxes.

“You have to think Boyce has the edge there, even though some policies have been, I wouldn’t say controversial, but taxes are always an issue in Cobb County and you always wonder how voters, where taxes are their main issue, you always wonder which side they’re going to come down on and how they’re going to look at an incumbent. Boyce ousted Tim Lee, mainly over the Braves development there in Smyrna. But Boyce has done a good job meeting with people, talking with people, airing out differences. He’s open. So I don’t know,” he said. “You think he probably has the edge there, but then again, the Democratic Party has been gaining strength in Cobb County, and Cupid could always pull an upset. It’s possible.”

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