Voting in Valdosta: 'Difficult Not to Register'

At games, grocery stores and on street corners, young and old register.

Oct. 3, 2008— -- It's a Friday night in Valdosta, Georgia, and what looks like the whole town is in the football stadium stands, cheering for the home team. Shouts of "Come on defense" and "Go Wildcats" ring out across the field.

But it's not just football that's happening there. In this election year, the local stadium is one of the many places across town where they're registering voters.

"I went to a high school football game, to watch the high school band primarily, and as I walked up there was a table there registering people to vote," said Deb Cox, the director of the Board of Elections. "It would be difficult to not register if you weren't registered to vote in Loude's county."

At the grocery store, at restaurants, even on the street corners, there's someone there, registering voters. In the last two weeks alone, 4,000 new voters have signed up.

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According to Ricky Rowe, whose son is the quarterback, people in Valdosta are worried about higher gas prices and lower home prices.

"I think the economic issues have taken the forefront of this election, and we've really not heard -- I've not heard from either side -- how to solve the issues," he said.

The trouble on Wall Street and the huge government bailout certainly has everyone's attention.

"I mean it's really hard for me to wrap my hands and my mind around a $700 billion buy out," said Laverne Rome.

In the black neighborhoods, they're working overtime to get out the vote. George Rhymes is a man on a mission, going door to door, and reaching out to black businesses.

"Is everybody registered to vote? Can I register anybody to vote?" he said at the local barbershop.  "You have the most important elections to come up perhaps in the history of this nation."

It all appears to be working; the election board is overwhelmed.

"These are all new registration forms that we've just put in or are waiting to be put in," said Cox.

Much of this would seem to benefit Sen. Barack Obama. His campaign has energized African-Americans: statewide, upwards of 40 percent of voters who've already cast their ballots are African-American. But the reality is that Georgia will most likely go to Senator McCain, and just about everyone there knows that.

That isn't stopping 82-year-old Pearlie Patterson, who will vote for the first time this November or Willie Mae Johnson, who's 62, and registered to vote at the local Wal-Mart.

"I believe there is going to be a change," Patterson said. "This'll be a big change, and maybe things will be … [I] hope and pray things will be a little better."

"I'm going to take a chance this time," said Johnson. "Maybe my one vote might matter -- you never know -- but whether it do or don't I'm proud that I did it ."

They both have waited a long time to make their voices heard.