Stopping by the Columbia County Board of Elections office Tuesday morning didn't constitute any sort of special treatment by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
He's made 110 similar stops in the past.
"It's good to be out," he said. "It's important that people understand we are all in this together. I think it's important to stop by."
Although his previous visits to county Boards of Election haven't all occurred on election days, he said there's a certain excitement that comes with seeing a staff going about its duties while voting is going on.
"Especially from the public's perspective, this is what people associate with our office," he said. Fair and secure elections - that's really what we strive for."
"It's what people expect."
Kemp arrived at the office about 10 a.m., three hours after voting started Tuesday. If early vote numbers and the morning's turnout are any indication, voting for Tuesday’s election in Columbia County should be healthy.
"We voted more in the first hour than we did in some days of early voting," said Judy Teasley, poll manager of the Bible Cathedral precinct in Evans.
Voters steadily streamed into the precinct and others around the county, bolstering Columbia County Board of Elections Registration Coordinator Nancy Gay's prediction of up to 30 percent turnout in the primary.
At the close of early voting on Friday, 4,857 voters had cast ballots in the primary election, Gay said.
“I almost want to be hopeful for a higher turnout just because advance voting was good,” she added.
"The turnout, so far, has been great," said David Iverson, poll manager at the Church of Our Redeemer precinct on William Few Parkway.
"This is good. It's steady. Sometimes, in a runoff, I'll sit here all day and see may three people, but people are coming out," Iverson said. "I think the alcohol sales might have something to do with it."
In addition to a countywide referendum on whether to allow Sunday package sales of alcohol, voters are deciding in a countywide Republican primary with three candidates for chief magistrate judge, two Republican primary races for County Commission District 2 and 3, two non-partisan school board seats in District 1 and 4, and a Republican primary race for state House District 121.
Voters also are participating in the Republican primaries for Congressional Districts 10 and 12, with the two districts splitting Columbia County, and in the non-partisan race for an Augusta Judicial Circuit superior court judgeship.
In addition to the Sunday sales referendum, voters on all ballots will participate in the district referendum for the transportation sales tax. City of Harlem voters, who also vote in the county referendum, are deciding a separate referendum to allow Sunday sales inside the city limits. Grovetown already allows Sunday package sales, though its voters will participate in the countywide referendum.
Meanwhile, early voting was a little slower at the Martinez Baptist Church precinct in Martinez.
Poll Manager Mary Joplin said only a few voters had been trickling in.
"We're usually pretty busy that first hour or hour-and-a-half," Joplin said.
Because of good voter turnout for advanced voting, however, Joplin said she expects traffic to pick up around lunchtime and again about mid-afternoon when residents get off work.
"We should have a good day," Joplin said.
Of those voting early, 4,135 voted Republican; 565 voted Democrat; and 157 chose a non-partisan ballot, Gay said. Of 797 absentee ballots sent out, 435 Republican ballots have been returned, 63 Democrat ballots have been returned and the sole non-partisan absentee ballot sent out hasn’t been returned, she said.
The county has a total of 87,418 registered voters, with 76,593 listed as active and 10,825 inactive, Gay said.
Poll workers haven’t had any major problems with early voting and don’t expect any Tuesday, Gay said, despite the noticeable absence of Board of Elections Director Debbie Marshall.
Marshall has been on medical leave since surgery in April to remove a brain tumor, and is recuperating at home while continuing treatment, said her husband, Lee Marshall.
In the midst of what is expected to be a busy day, the office has been told to expect a visit from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will be in town for an Augusta Red Cross luncheon, Gay said.
Meanwhile, a criminal case against one candidate in the County Commission District 2 race is still pending.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has turned over to the district attorney’s office its file regarding Republican challenger Lee Benedict, who took a photo of his voting machine and posted it to his Facebook page, said Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.
Use of cameras inside voting booths is prohibited by state law, and violations are a misdemeanor, said Columbia County Attorney Doug Batchellor during a recent Board of Elections meeting called to discuss the allegation.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said she has not decided whether to prosecute because she hasn’t yet reviewed the case file.