Poll workers prepare for '06 elections

LAWRENCEVILLE - In just a month, politicians will start lining up to qualify for the ballot.

But before the glad-handing begins, elections officials have some work to do to prepare for this year at the polls.

Earlier this month, commissioners agreed to a $236,250 contract to print ballots for the July primary and November general election.

Another $343,830 will supply Gwinnett with a reserve of a new kind of electronic polling equipment. This device will allow poll workers to pull up election information on anyone registered to vote within the state. That would help for anyone who shows up at the wrong precinct to be directed to where they should vote.

Elections Supervisor Lynn Ledford said the state supplied two machines per precinct, but the county added more to help with crowds.

Also to help with crowds, Ledford picked out two spots for people to participate in early voting.

In 2004, the first year advance voting was allowed for any reason, hundreds of people crammed the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center the week before the presidential election. Some reportedly waited as long as eight hours to cast their ballots.

Ledford said she doesn't expect the same kind of turnout for this year's election, where the gubernatorial race is at the top of the ticket, but she wanted to be prepared.

Plus, the locations she picked may make it easier for people across Gwinnett.

Advance voting will be located at the Centerville Community Center south of Snellville and the Singleton Road Activity Building in the Norcross area, as well as the justice center in Lawrenceville.

For months, officials have haggled over changes to precinct lines and registrations, so the hardest part of Election Day will be deciding who gets your vote.

But a recent vote in the Legislature may make future elections a little more difficult.

On Friday, the House passed a measure from Sen. Bill Stephens, who is trying to win the secretary of state job this year. Stephens has proposed that paper ballots be printed as a record of the electronic voting totals. His bill sets up pilot projects in three Georgia counties before the measure is considered statewide.

But Ledford said the idea could prove costly.

The county's current electronic voting machines aren't equipped for printing, and replacing them would cost $6 million to $8 million, she estimated. And that doesn't count the cost of paper and storage.