Officials predict low turnout at the polls today

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Just a third of Gwinnett's voters are likely to make it to the polls today, Elections Director Lynn Ledford predicted.

While the county's demographics are changing, today's primary could do a lot to determine the next two county commissioners and a half-dozen General Assembly seats -- not to mention the next congressman and governor.

But early voting has been slow across the state as well as in Gwinnett, Ledford said. About 5,300 people voted during last week's early voting period and another 2,000 took advantage of absentee voting in the weeks before. About 1,500 absentee ballots have been returned.

With 420,000 registered voters in a county of more than 800,000, Ledford expects between 25 and 32 percent to participate in today's primaries. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"For a gubernatorial year, we're lucky if we get 30 percent," she said. "Based on what happens with the ads and the robocalls (Monday), that could increase, depending on what drives people to the polls."

Republicans and Democrats have their choice of a long list of candidates for governor, and nearly all of the state offices from attorney general to agriculture commissioner are widely contested.

Locally, eight men are vying for the GOP nod to replace U.S. Rep. John Linder, an 18-year incumbent set to retire, while U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson faces Democratic competition and Republicans square off for the chance at his job in November.

Voters in Snellville will decide a liquor-by-the-drink issue that has haunted leaders for more than five years.

But Ledford said few people have been engaged. That may be because of the sheer number of candidates overwhelming the ballots, Ledford said.

"I think they are waiting until the primaries shake out," she said. "I don't think they realize how important the primaries are."

Voters do not need to be registered with a party to vote today. They can simply choose a ballot today. But they must choose the same ballot in an August runoff, which is likely for many of the contests.

Ledford said she does not expect long waits at the polls, although there could be short lines in the morning, lunch hour and after the work day. She recommends voters go to the Secretary of State's website, www.sos.ga.gov, to view sample ballots before they go to the polls.