SMYRNA — Voters started showing up as early as 7 a.m. to cast ballots in-person in Cobb County on Monday, the first day of early voting, and many of them waited several hours.
At the Smyrna Community Center, a line wrapped around the building and outward, with many people sitting in folding chairs. Voters told the MDJ they had waited three, four or more hours. Poll workers said some reported waiting for six hours, which matched official wait times Monday afternoon through the Cobb County elections website.
At most early voting polling places, wait times were around three hours Monday afternoon, though the Riverside EpiCenter’s estimated time was 45 minutes and the West Cobb Regional Library’s was an hour and a half.
By 3:35 p.m. Monday, 5,731 people had voted early, Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler told the MDJ. In 2016, 3,700 people voted the first day of early voting.
“The lines are moving, but the system is a little slower than usual with so much demand across the State,” Eveler said in an email. “One factor that is causing longer wait times is the number of people who applied for an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in-person. That amounts to almost every third voter in some places. This takes a great deal more time to cancel the absentee ballot.”
Contributing to the lines is the fact that the first day of early voting coincided with Columbus Day, a day off work and a school holiday for many.
“My recommendation is to check the wait times and try another location or to come a different day. Or wait until Election Day to vote at your regular poll,” Eveler said, adding that voters can still apply for an absentee ballot.
DeVonn Fray, one of the voters who waited in line in Smyrna on Monday, said nothing was going to stop him and his family from getting to the polls.
“This is very important. No matter what you feel or who you’re voting for, there a lot of people who have died, there a lot of people who have sacrificed, there are a lot of people who have given us the right to vote,” he said. “We will be out here, rain, sleet, snow, sun, whatever it is.”
Laurie Hyde of Mableton, an accounts receivable manager at Westminster Schools, waited in line a second time after voting with her father to keep her husband company. She said she’s voted in every election since she was 18.
“We’re concerned about the direction of the country. The violence ... we need to get that stopped,” she said. “Everything is so divided; it shouldn’t have to be that way.”
Cobb’s main elections office on Whitlock Avenue is in the same building as the tax assessor’s office. Because of the high volume of voters, the county asked those who want to visit the tax assessor to call or email instead.
“As the result of the large number of voters showing up to 736 Whitlock Ave. to cast their early ballots this week, the Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office is asking people who have business with them to call or email. There is no need to come visit in person, all business with them can be conducted remotely. You can reach the Tax Assessor’s Office at 770-528-3100 or check their site at firstname.lastname@example.org,” the county posted on its Facebook page. “The Board of Equalization also has hearings in the building. If the appellant would like to request to attend their hearing virtually, please contact our office at 770-528-2000.”
Those who want to vote absentee have until Oct. 30 to request an absentee ballot, which can be done through Cobb Elections or through the Georgia Secretary of State website at www.sos.ga.gov. Completed absentee ballots can be mailed to the Cobb elections office or delivered to one of 16 drop boxes in the county now through the Nov. 3 election, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. For a full list of drop box locations and other information, visit www.cobbcounty.org/elections.