CONYERS — Voters who ventured out Monday for the first day of early voting in the Nov. 3 General Election were greeted with long lines and prolonged wait times.

All across the east metro region, hundreds of voters began lining up when polls opened. Many spent hours in line before they could cast a ballot.

Cynthia Willingham, elections supervisor in Rockdale County, said a couple of factors — in addition to the large turnout and social distancing requirements — contributed to the wait times. Willingham said the State Voter Registration System was processing voters extremely slowly. “For example, it would usually take us less than two minutes to process a voter,” Willingham said in an email to the Citizen. “However, due to the lag in the system, it is taking up to four minutes to process a voter.”

In addition, since many of the in-person voters had already requested an absentee ballot by mail, Willingham said poll workers are having to cancel the mailed ballot so residents can vote in person. “This is an additional step we have to perform in the State Voter Registration System,” she said.

In Newton County, some voters were waiting in excess of six hours to vote. A line had formed outside the Newton County Administration Building before polls opened at 8 a.m. At noon, the line had wound completely around the building before queuing in the park area on the northern side of the building. Voters were being allowed inside in small groups.

Paul Zeilinger and Calvin DuPree found a bench in the Rotary plaza where they could rest a while after standing in the long line. Zeilinger said he planned to have surgery closer to election day and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to vote. DuPree said he was willing to deal with the long wait “to get it out of the way and then watch the rest of it on TV.”

Advance voting continues through Oct. 30. Following is a schedule of locations and dates for advance voting in Newton and Rockdale counties:

NEWTON

Newton County Administration Building, 1113 Usher St., Covington

♦ Monday — Friday, Oct. 12 — Oct. 23, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

♦ 0ct. 26 — Oct. 30, 8 .m. to 6 p.m.

♦ Saturday voting — Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Porter Memorial Branch Library, 6191 Ga. Highway 212, Covington

♦ Oct. 26 — Oct. 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

ROCKDALE

1400 Parker Road, Conyers

♦ Monday — Friday, Oct. 12 — Oct. 23, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

♦ Oct. 26 — Oct. 27, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

♦ Oct. 28 — Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

♦ Saturday voting — Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

♦ Sunday voting — Oct. 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be no advance voting on Monday, Nov. 2, immediately preceding the date of the election.

According to the Newton County Board of Elections, if a voter has requested and received an absentee ballot by mail and later decides to vote in person, either during advance voting or on Election Day, it is suggested that the voter bring that absentee ballot with them so it may be surrendered and cancelled. Once that ballot is cancelled by the poll manager, the voter will be allowed to vote in person. If the voter is not in possession of that absentee ballot, then the poll manager will need to contact the Board of Elections Office to verify if the voted ballot has or has not been received by the Board of Elections. If the absentee ballot has not been received back, then the poll manager will be instructed for the voter to complete an affidavit and the absentee ballot will be cancelled before the voter is allowed to vote in person.

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Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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