Travel

How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in Atlanta This November

Here's everything you need to know about voting in the midterms in Atlanta.

LightField Studios/Shutterstock
LightField Studios/Shutterstock
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Every vote matters. According to the nonpartisan organization Fair Vote-a great voting resource to familiarize yourself with-voter turnout during midterm elections has been considerably lower than in presidential elections over the last twenty years, and apart from the 2018 midterms, less than 42% of voters nationwide have shown up at the polls for each midterm election since 2002. With so many important local, state, and national matters on the ballot, we simply cannot afford to wait until 2024 to put one of our most precious rights to use.

Now, are you all riled up and ready to vote? Good, because that’s the easy part. The tough part is figuring out how you’re going to ensure that your vote counts, and that encompasses everything from double-checking your voter registration to studying up on what’s actually on the ballot. To help make the voting process as painless for you as possible, we’ve put together a quick guide that will tell you everything that you need to know about the midterm election in Atlanta this November. Get informed and go make your voice heard.

How to register to vote in Georgia

Before you do anything election-related, the first thing you want to do is check your voter registration status, and the easiest way to do that-regardless of which county you live in – is by accessing the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. When you access that portal, there will be two buttons, front and center-one with the question “Am I Registered to Vote?” on the left and another with the statement “I Want to Register to Vote” on the right. Regardless of whether you have voted in past elections or you do not have any recollection of ever registering to vote, it is always worth hitting the “Am I Registered to Vote?” button on the left first. That button will take you to a page that will ask for your first initial, last name, county of residence, and date of birth, and after entering your information, you will either be transported to your current voter registration or be alerted that your registration was not location-meaning that you do indeed need to register. By taking that extra step and checking one’s registration status first, returning voters can double-check that their information is up-to-date, and new voters can ensure that there aren’t any existing and/or conflicting registrations attached to their identity.

Once you have confirmed that you do in fact need to register to vote, you can return to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system and click the button that says “I Want to Register to Vote.” From there, you will see two options: to register online using a valid Georgia driver’s license/ID or to register by printing and mailing the application. Choose whichever method you prefer, and follow the steps provided. Within two to four weeks, you should receive an official confirmation that your registration was successful, and if you don’t, you can contact your local county registration office for more information.

In Fulton County, you can also register to vote in person at the Fulton County Government Center, the South Fulton Service Center, and the North Fulton Service Center. In DeKalb County, you can register in person at the Voter Registration & Elections office, and you can also choose to register when you renew or apply for a driver’s license. If you don’t live in the city of Atlanta or either of the aforementioned counties, you can find more information at your county’s Registration & Elections website.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Georgia

If you wish to vote in the November general election, the final day to register to vote is Tuesday, October 11. That means that you must complete the online registration, complete the in-person registration, or have your mail-in registration postmarked by October 11. Just so you know, the registration deadline is also the last day to make any changes or corrections to your registration ahead of the midterm election on November 8.

What’s on the ballot: key races and issues

Knowing what’s on your ballot is key because depending on where you live, your ballot may not necessarily look like your best friend’s. To receive the most accurate representation of what will be on your ballot, all you have to do is return to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system and access your voter registration. Upon doing so, you will see an option to view a sample ballot, which will show all of the state, county, and city races and referendums that you will be able to vote on.

With that said, there are some key races that every voter in Georgia will have an opportunity to weigh in on. One of the most pressing state races is the gubernatorial rematch between Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and the Democrat challenger Stacey Abrams-which also includes candidates such as Shane Hazel (Libertarian), Elbert Bartell (Independent), and President Boddie (Independent). Another statewide race that has gained national media attention is the US Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker-which also includes candidates such Chase Oliver (Libertarian) and George Litchfield (Conservative Party).

Elsewhere on the ballot, voters throughout the state can expect to vote on races for the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Insurance, the State School Superintendent, and the Commissioner of Labor.

Can I vote early?

Yes, early voting begins on Monday, October 17, and it will conclude on Friday, November 4. A full list of early voting locations in Fulton County is available here, and a full list of early voting locations in DeKalb County is available here. Some counties offer early voting on Sundays, so for the most accurate info, always check back with your county’s Registration & Elections website.

How to find your polling place

To find your polling place, access your voter registration via the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. After you enter your information, you will see exactly which polling place that you should go to on Election Day on November 8. Once you find your polling place, make sure that you bring your Georgia driver’s license or ID. It will be used to verify your identity and allow you to vote, and if you cannot present a license or ID, you will have to cast a provisional ballot instead.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, and you can vote by mail without an excuse. If you choose to vote by mail, you must request your absentee ballot from the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system by Friday, October 28. To cast an eligible mail-in vote, your ballot must be received by your county’s Department of Registration & Elections no later than the close of polls on Election Day. If you don’t think that your ballot will arrive at your county registrar by 7 pm on November 8, check your county’s elections website to see if you are allowed to deliver your ballot in person at the Registration & Elections office instead. If that isn’t an option, go vote in person and make sure you bring your absentee ballot with you. A poll manager or poll worker can cancel that ballot and allow you to vote on the touch screen as long as you return the canceled absentee ballot in person.

How to find ballot drop boxes (if applicable)

If you requested an absentee ballot and no longer want to mail it in, you can drop it off in a county-approved ballot drop box. However, one of the major changes to Georgia’s voting system now prohibits the use of ballot drop boxes after the early voting period from October 17 to November 4. Fulton County requires that you submit your ballot to one of its seven drop box locations during the early voting period from October 17 to November 4, while DeKalb County permits ballots to be submitted to drop boxes

How to volunteer as a poll worker

In addition to voting in an upcoming election, you can make an invaluable impact on your community by serving as a poll worker, and even though it is some of the most rewarding volunteer work that you can sign up for, you’ll still be compensated for your time and dedication. Atlantans who are interested in becoming poll workers for future elections can apply via the official Fulton County or DeKalb County websites. Unfortunately, the deadline to apply to be a Fulton County poll worker during the 2022 midterms has already passed, and while the DeKalb County poll worker application is still open, keep in mind that positions are filled on an as-needed basis. With that said, you may not be able to work as a poll worker in November, but at least you’ll have a head start on future elections-including any potential runoffs. For those living in surrounding counties, your county’s Registration & Elections website should also have information about becoming a poll worker.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Joshua Robinson is a former poll worker and current Atlanta-based Thrillist contributor who hopes everyone exercises their right to vote this November.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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