By Jason A. Smith
A fairly low turnout of early voters was expected this week in Henry County, for the run-off portion of the Georgia primaries, and so far, that expectation seems to be holding.
"I don't think we'll do 20 percent like we did in the primary," said Henry County Elections and Registration Director Janet Shellnutt. "We'll be lucky, probably, to pull 10 percent. But they [voters] may surprise me. I hope they do."
Early voting began in Georgia on Monday, and extends through Friday, at 5 p.m. Henry voters can cast their ballots at the Elections and Registration office, at 345 Phillips Drive in McDonough, or at the Stockbridge voting precinct, located at 130 Berry Street.
Shellnutt said she has spent time this week, working to alleviate voters' confusion over the early-voting process. Some Henry residents have experienced difficulty in knowing where to go for early voting, she said.
More than 400 people have gone to the Elections department's former office on Veterans Drive, attempting to vote in the runoff, said Shellnutt.
Sharmaine Gilman, who works in Shellnutt's office as a registration supervisor, said, as of Wednesday afternoon, 420 people voted early at the McDonough office this week, and 184 people had cast ballots in Stockbridge.
"We think it's higher than normal," Gilman said. "We weren't expecting an extremely low turnout, but we believe it's more than it normally would be for a runoff." Gilman said she expects a heavier voter turnout at both locations Friday, which is the last day of early voting in Henry.
Shellnutt pointed out that voters must go to their respective precincts, and not to her department's headquarters, to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Shellnutt added that 20.1 percent of registered voters in Henry participated in last month's primaries. Those who did not vote in the primaries, she said, can still vote in the runoff -- if they are registered.
"A lot of people think that if you don't vote in the primary, you're not eligible to vote in the runoff," she said. "But that's not true. You are eligible."
Shellnutt said voters must vote, in the runoff, for the same party they voted for in the primary. However, they can vote in the Republican or Democratic runoff, if they did not vote in July.
"By November, everything will be on one ballot," she said. "You won't have to pick a party in November."
Six sets of Republican candidates' names will appear on the run-off ballot, in local and state-wide races. Todd Hilton and Rick Jeffares are the GOP run-off candidates, in Georgia's Senate District 17. Lee Spahos and Andy Welch are vying for the Republican nomination for the State House District 110th seat.
Gubernatorial candidates, Nathan Deal and Karen Handel, are seeking the Republican nomination, to face Democratic candidate, Roy Barnes, in November. Republicans Sam Olens and Preston W. Smith, will compete in the runoff, to become Georgia's next Attorney General.
GOP run-off candidates also include Ralph T. Hudgens and Maria Sheffield, for State Insurance Commissioner, and John Douglas and Tim Echols for Public Service Commissioner.
Henry County's lone Democratic run-off race will feature Secretary of State candidates, Gail Buckner and Georgianna Sinkfield.