Monday's the deadline for Georgians to register to vote in the March 1 presidential preference primary, with early voting starting just a week later.
The presidential primary this year will not coincide with state party primaries and local elections, which are set for May 24. State leaders in Georgia and Alabama moved the presidential primary date up in an effort to make the South more relevant to the national campaigns.
Residents here can register at the elections office in the City Services Center at 3111 Citizens Way, off Macon Road by the Columbus Public Library. It's open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They also can pick registration forms up at any library branch, or download them from the elections website, www.columbusga.org/elections, but they must fill those out and have them postmarked Monday to meet the deadline.
Georgians also can register to vote online through the Georgia Secretary of State's website at http://sos.ga.gov. A "My Voter Page" link on that site allows residents to check their voter status.
Alabamians have until Feb. 25, the Thursday before the Tuesday primary, to register.
Muscogee County currently has 85,166 active registered voters, said Nancy Boren, Columbus' elections director.
The county has 37,714 inactive voters who also are eligible to vote.
"Active" voters are those who recently have voted or had some other contact with the elections office, such as changing their addresses.
Boren said the contentious presidential race has generated some interest among new voters.
A social media reminder about the registration deadline prompted 12,000 Georgians to file online voter registration applications on Jan. 25, she said. Of those, 241 were Muscogee County residents.
As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, the elections office had sent out 58 Democratic and 131 Republican mail-in absentee ballots, she said. Voters must choose one ballot or the other.
Others who'd like a mail-in absentee ballot may call the elections office at 706-653-4392, or download an application form from the "Forms and Publications" link on the office website, www.columbusga.org/elections.
On Monday, Feb. 1, early voting begins from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the community room of the City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way. It continues on that schedule Monday through Friday until Feb. 26.
Voters also can cast ballots in advance there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on two Saturdays, Feb. 13 and Feb. 20. They must show a government-issued photo ID to vote.
Neighborhood polls will be open as usual from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, but three voting precincts will move to new sites this year:
Polls at Northside Baptist Church, 959 54th St., and Fox Recreation Center, 3720 Fifth Ave., will consolidate at Columbus Technical College, 928 Manchester Expressway.
The poll at Blackmon Road Middle School, 7251 Blackmon Road, will move to the Salvation Army, 5201 Warm Springs Road.
Boren has been moving voting polls out of schools because of issues with traffic congestion and school security.
The voter registration deadline for the May 26 state party primaries and local elections will be April 26. Early voting for that begins May 2.