Officials expect a total turnout of 90 percent

LAWRENCEVILLE - Today's the day so many have been waiting for.

This Election Day, people will pick, for the first time, either a black man for president or a woman for vice president. Today, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be chosen president.

Officials expect crowds at the polls, with an expected total turnout of 90 percent. But the waits could be less intense after weeks of crammed polling locations during absentee voting periods. In all, 88,496 people voted in person during the early voting period and another 31,807 absentee ballots were mailed.

With 19,458 ballots returned through mid-day Monday (people have until

7 p.m. today to return them), nearly 30 percent of Gwinnett's 421,164 voters have already cast ballots.

While polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., election monitors will be out at the metro Atlanta outlets where people are expecting the largest crowds. Georgia Election Protection, which has a hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, will be at 29 Gwinnett precincts.

On Monday, as officials readied for voters, both major party candidates in the contentious battle for U.S. Senate made stops in Gwinnett. Democrat Jim Martin visited eateries in Duluth and Lawrenceville before helping with phone-banking in Suwanee, while incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss held rallies in Suwanee and Lawrenceville.

In addition to the Senate ballot, people today will choose county commissioners, school board members, judges and legislators. In Lawrenceville, they will choose the mayor and in the county seat, Loganville and Norcross, council members will be decided.

At the end of the county ballots, people will also decide whether a penny sales tax will be extended to pay for roads, parks, police and fire stations, libraries, an expansion to the county courthouse and various city projects.

But the tallying process could last into the wee hours of the morning, county spokesman Joe Sorenson said.

While people cast ballots today, elections officials will be at work in Lawrenceville transferring votes on at least 10,000 flawed absentee ballots. The votes must be duplicated on a correct ballot form, as the ovals on the original ballots are too thick to be read by optical scanning machines.

There, members of both political parties and other representatives will be on hand to monitor the process, which could take up to 10 hours.

Secretary of State Karen Handel said people should bring a photo ID to the polls.

Based on a recent court decision, people whose citizenship has been questioned during the registration process can fill out a challenge ballot at the polls, but Sorenson said they must bring documentation of their status to the elections office by the end of the day Thursday.