Voters prepare for Georgia's primary election

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Georgia Primary Election is Tuesday, May 22. Polls will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the state.

Georgians will head to the polls to vote for the General Primary and Nonpartisan election.

Statewide, citizens will cast their votes for governor, secretary of state and other state and congressional offices, as well as judicial offices in local courts, commissioners and educational board candidates.

"I know that this is an earlier season this year," said Governor Nathan Deal. "We were required  to move our primary dates up."

The Governor says that it doesn't matter who you're voting for, as long as you get it done.

"We're a democracy and we depend on people's support, and they do it ballot box," the Governor said.

Republican voters will choose among seven candidates for governor, three for lieutenant governor and four for secretary of state. Democrats will decide between two gubernatorial candidates, two lieutenant governor candidates and three secretary of state candidates.

Governor Deal is term-limited, and the 2018 governor's race is the first time in eight years an incumbent isn't seeking reelection. Georgia has had the same lieutenant governor since 2007 and the same secretary of state since 2010. Neither position is term-limited.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office says 320, 443 people voted early in this year's primary. That's down from the 329,043 who voted early in the 2016 primary and up from the 248,104 who voted early in the 2014 primary.

In general, voter turnout in primary elections in Georgia is low. According to the Secretary of State's Office, some counties in the Coastal Empire saw fewer than 2 percent of register voters cast ballots in 2014 and 2016 primaries.

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Thomas Mahoney, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections, said local races, like open school board seats, sometimes drive more people to the polls.

"Local races can draw out a lot of people," he said. "People get very energized with those races, but that said, we'll wait and see what the turnout's going to be."

Mahoney also noted voters can request a nonpartisan ballot on Tuesday if they do not want to say if they are voting with the Republican or Democratic primary, and each ballot is different depending on your party, your county and your district.

There are 31 categories on Chatham County's sample ballot. One of the big seats up for grabs is for Savannah-Chatham School Board President.

The following is a sample ballot for Chatham County:

With such lengthy ballots in Chatham County, Mahoney encourages voters to read through them before heading to the polls.

"I would say prepare ahead of time," he said. "You can go to the My Voter Page, that's the best place to go, and look it up there. You can also go at the poll and do it there, but it would be better if you could spend some time before you get to the poll, look on the My Voter Page and go over that. Have some idea of what you want to do or familiarity with all the different races that are on the ballot."

You can check your voting status and polling location by clicking here.

If you need a ride to the polls on Tuesday, the NAACP Savannah Branch is offering free rides. Just call 912-233-4161 between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Election Day to request a ride.

For those who live in South Carolina, statewide primaries are set for June 12.

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