There are 307 days between now and the 2012 presidential election, but the process of selecting candidates for that contest is well under way.
Yesterday, it was the Iowa caucuses; soon, it will be Super Tuesday, when Georgia is among 10 states holding either a primary or a caucus on March 6.
Already, election officials are prepared for absentee voters.
"Ballots are ready and anyone wishing to vote absentee by mail may request one being sent to them," said Tonya Moore, Catoosa County's chief election official.
Barack Obama's is the only name on the Democratic Party primary ballot. The president faces no opposition in his bid for a second term.
That is not the case with the GOP's primary ballot, which lists nine candidates. Those seeking Georgia's delegates to the national convention are Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
"Ballots had not been printed before Herman Cain withdrew," Moore said.
Sample ballots and other election related information can be found online at either www.catoosa.com/depts/elections or www.sos.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/locator.asp, she said.
Voters also should be aware of changes in state law that regulates the advance voting period, Moore said.
Beginning in 2012, Georgia has changed from 45 to 21 the number of days when advance voting will take place prior to the March 6 primary. That means in-person advance voting will begin on Feb. 13.
"This year, with the reduced number of days for advance voting, the polls will be open one Saturday, Feb. 25, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.," Moore said.
Weekdays, voters can visit Catoosa Hall (formerly the Courthouse Annex) in Ringgold to cast advance ballots between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. with one exception. On March 1, advance voting hours will be extended until 7 p.m., according to officials.
Prior to this year, Georgia law required the state's presidential preference primary to be conducted on the first Tuesday in February of a presidential election year. The 2011 Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 454 that allows the Secretary of State to set the presidential preference primary date, and Secretary Brian Kemp chose Tuesday, March 6, in part to assure Georgia's entire compliment of delegates were counted during the GOP's national convention.
Republican National Committee rules forbid any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding a primary or caucus before March 6. Violators could lose half their delegates to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Fla., next August.
In selecting March 6 as the date for the presidential primary, Kemp said, "I want to stress that we have committed in good faith to abiding by the rules set forth by the Republican National Committee so Georgia will not suffer a loss of delegates, and I highly encourage the Republican National Committee to enforce its rules as this process continues."
Feb. 6 is the last day to register or change registration information for anyone wanting to participate in the presidential primary, Moore said.