With fewer than six weeks until the nation votes for the next president, Lowndes County is gearing up for the election.
Several organizations, both on campus and off, have held voter rallies trying to get citizens registered to vote before the Oct. 9 deadline to be eligible to cast a ballot in the November election.
The Lowndes County Board of Elections is preparing for a large turnout during the early voting period Oct. 15-26.
“We’re really pushing early voting,” Tiffany Linkswiler, elections official, said. “That last week of early voting is going to be really busy.”
During this period, registered Georgia voters can cast their ballots in person at the Elections Office at 2808 N. Oak St. in Valdosta even if they are not registered in Lowndes County. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For those unable to get to the polls during the week, the Elections Office will be open for Saturday voting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 27. The office will reopen with extended hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
According to Linkswiler, all of these voting times count as early voting and allow all Georgia voters to vote in person at the Elections Office. However, those who wait to vote on Election Day will have to report to their assigned polling places between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 to cast a ballot.
Voters’ assigned polling places will depend on where they are registered.
“You need to be registered where you consider your residence to be,” Linkswiler said.
Those with temporary residences, such as students and military personnel, may have to consider which residence they want to use to register to vote. The difference comes in when local elections show up on the ballot.
Voters registered in Lowndes County are eligible to vote for local officials such as sheriff, coroner and county commissioners. Voters registered in other counties will, instead, have the option to vote for candidates running for these offices in the voters’ home counties.
Though they don’t have to be registered in Lowndes County to vote early here, Jason Romano, a Valdosta resident and local business owner, thinks students should be registered locally.
“[… W]ith VSU, you have people coming down here for four years who say ‘Oh, I’ve just going down there for four years then I’m going back home, so I don’t need to register down there. It’s not that important,’” Romano said. “Well, it really, really is because your four years may turn into eight years. You might say ‘Hey, I like Valdosta; I want to move down here. I want to stay down here; I want to build a family here.”
“You need to let your voice be heard,” Romano continued. “We have that right to vote. It’s there for you so go out and register and vote. Get educated on who’s running and let’s vote.”
Romano’s business, Divided By Zero, was one of the locations of recent voter registration events. The Lowndes County Ga. Liberty Outbreak hosted the rally as part of its “Divided By Zero Appreciation Day.”
Alex Abell, VSU alumnus and Divided By Zero co-owner, agrees with Romano about the importance of citizens exercising their right to vote.
“In any kind of representative government, you want to be informed of who you’re voting for
and you want to be able to vote for the people who are going to control aspects of your life,” Abell said.
Linkswiler wants students to know that they really do make a difference.
“The population at the university level is so great that they can make a difference in any local election,” she said. “When John Eunice ran for City Council, he won because of VSU.”