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Most Cobb voters will be using hand-marked paper ballots in the Nov. 5 municipal elections this year, according to Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration.

Going into Election Day, just over 2,500 Cobb voters have cast their ballots early for local offices in five of Cobb’s six cities.

Residents of Smyrna, Kennesaw, Powder Springs, Acworth and Austell are set to elect mayors and city council members. There are no seats up for election in Marietta this year.

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said the number of early voters may be low compared to countywide elections, but it’s actually respectable when stacked next to other city elections.

“I thought they were low until I looked back at previous city elections, and actually, every city has had a higher turnout this time, except Kennesaw’s was lower,” she said.

Smyrna voters seem to be driving the boost — 1,569 Smyrna residents have cast early votes either in-person or by mail. That’s in a city with over 36,000 registered voters for a participation rate of about 4.3%.

In that city, Mayor Max Bacon is laying down the gavel after over 30 years in charge, and five candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to replace him.

Longtime Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins is also not seeking re-election. He stepped down earlier this year due to health concerns, and three challengers will face off against acting Mayor Ollie Clemons, who is up for election less than six months after taking office.

Austell has the lowest turnout of the five cities with elections upcoming — only 176 early ballots have been cast in-person or by mail — but Austell also has the lowest population of Cobb’s cities. Just over 7,200 people live there, compared with nearly 57,000 people who call Smyrna home.

With just under 4,900 registered voters, Austell has an early voting participation rate of about 3.6%.

In Kennesaw and Powder Springs, mayors Derek Easterling and Al Thurman are running unopposed for reelection, but city council seats are up for grabs in both of those cities, as well as in Acworth.

In both of those cities, 240 people showed up or mailed in a vote. That means Kennesaw had an early voting participation of about 1.1%, and for Powder Springs, that number was about 2.1%.

In Acworth, the only city in Cobb managing its own election this year, 276 people have voted early. In Acworth, three city aldermen seats are up for grabs with one of those unopposed.

Acworth is also the only one of Cobb’s cities where voters will not use a pre-printed paper ballot similar to the ones used for absentee voting. Acworth will use its existing paper ballot system.

Everywhere else, voters will fill out their ballots by hand in a privacy booth, then run it through a scanning machine.

Cobb County volunteered to test pilot the new ballots after U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg directed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger to roll the system out in at least one jurisdiction for the Nov. 5 election. The same kind of paper ballot system will be used statewide if Georgia’s new electronic voting machine system is not online by the March 24, 2020, presidential primaries.

Speaking to the MDJ Monday, Eveler said using the machines has been mostly smooth sailing, though not entirely. If a voter does not bubble in the ballot correctly or leaves stray marks outside the circles, the machine might not be able to read the ballot.

“There is an element of, I would say human error that presents itself with this type of voting,” she said. “We’ve had a couple ballots where the voter has marked it a different way. The scanner recognizes it as an overvote or it may not recognize it as a vote at all.”

But Eveler said even voters who are unskilled at bubbling will have their votes counted. If the scanner cannot read a ballot, voters will have the opportunity to try again before submitting.

Eveler said those who plan to cast a ballot Tuesday should first confirm that they actually live within the boundaries of the city in which they wish to vote. She said several people have come in to vote only to discover they are residents of unincorporated Cobb County. You can confirm your status on the Georgia secretary of state’s elections website: www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do

That’s also where you will find your assigned polling location, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If you are an Acworth resident looking to vote on Election Day, you’ll have to go to Roberts School at 4681 School Street, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Don’t forget your ID.

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