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Our Thoughts: Primary what?
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We hear a lot about rallies, scandals, debates and caucuses this time of year. The Presidential Primary is upon us. The Georgia Presidential Preference Primary election is this Tuesday.

(This is not to be confused with the local Primary Election for our local and state officials — that is held on May 24.)

This is turning out to be an exciting Presidential race. The numbers show that people are stirred up about an election that includes the likes of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton and Ted Cruz.

In the last Presidential Preference Primary in 2012, Newton County had 10,375 local voters come out for the primary election. Only 1,708 of those votes were cast in early voting.

But here is where it gets interesting.

We are already halfway to the total number of Presidential Primary votes cast in 2012 just with early votes. As of Friday at 5 p.m., Newton County has had 5,133 early votes cast in this Presidential Preference Primary. That is three times the early voting turnout from 2012. And it is almost a dead even split between Republican and Democrat.

That total voter turnout in the 2012 Presidential Preference Primary is relatively low compared to the approximate 50,000 registered voters we had in the community at that time. A quick math ratio would show that only 1 in every 5 registered voters showed up in 2012. We are on track for a much larger turnout than in 2012.

It remains to be seen whether we will actually see more votes or whether this is a shift to early voting. Either way, it means that people are interested, people are paying attention, people are exercising their right to vote.

Let us not forget that there was a time, not so long ago, that more than half of our citizens were not deemed eligible to vote. When George Washington was elected our first President in 1787, only 6 percent of the population could vote. Non-landowners slowly earned the right by 1856. Women earned the right in 1920. Though black citizens technically earned the right at the end of the Civil War, most did not see that right come to fruition until 1965.

Too often our focus is on the candidate (and their hair, their clothes, their mistakes) and not on our right to participate in choosing the leader of our great nation.

So if you are one of those that is on the fence about participating in the Presidential Primary, if you are one that thinks your vote doesn’t count, if you are one that thinks there are no good candidates (or too many candidates), refocus. Consider what your grandparents, great-grandparents, or neighbors went through to earn the right to vote and fight to have their voices heard.

If you are one of the 51,297 registered voters in Newton County, now is your time. Your voice needs to be heard.

As a reminder, there is no voting on Monday. You will have to wait until Tuesday to cast your vote on who you would like to see on the ballot during the general election at your assigned polling locations.