Deadlines to register to vote in upcoming local, state and federal elections are approaching
AMERICUS – For those who plan to cast their votes in the upcoming 2020 local, state and federal elections and have not yet registered to vote, the clock is ticking. According to Sumter County Board of Elections (SCBE) Supervisor Randy Howard, citizens who have not yet registered to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP), General Primary Election, Nonpartisan General Election and Special Election have until Monday, May 11, to register to vote in those elections.
In addition to those elections, the deadline to register to vote in the General Primary Runoff, Nonpartisan General Runoff and the Special Runoff Election for Local and State Offices is also Monday, May 11.
Howard stated that early voting for the Presidential Preference Primary, General Primary Election, Nonpartisan General Election and Special Election, which is normally done at the Sumter County Courthouse, will be conducted at the Griffin Bell Golf Conference Center, located at 1800 South Lee Street in Americus. Early voting is being moved to this location due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Early voting for those elections will run from Monday, May 18, to Friday, June 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday voting on May 30 will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will also take place at the Griffin Bell Golf Conference Center. Election Day for all four of those elections will take place on Tuesday, June 9, at all of the precincts across Sumter County.
Howard went on to say that the SCBE is doing everything possible to make sure that there will be a safe voting environment. “That’s one reason that we have moved this from the original courthouse. It’s just too small. The courthouse is closed and people would have to stand too close together,” said Howard. “We just felt like the best thing to do for accurate space, good parking and everything else is to move to the conference center on South Lee Street.”
Howard continued by stating that the conference center will be thoroughly disinfected before voting begins and that masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning machines will be on hand.
However, as far as absentee ballots are concerned, Howard stated that they have been a “total nightmare” for him and his staff. “We don’t have that many absentee ballots in the last few elections, just a few here and there,” Howard said.
He went on to say that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent out 6.7 million absentee ballots across Georgia because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. “We’ve got over 17,000 registered voters in Sumter County,” Howard said. “It only went to your home address or wherever you reside at and if you didn’t get your mail there, it went back and returned to us for follow up. That left us a little over 3,000 applications that we had to follow up on.”
Howard stated that there were several problems with these absentee ballots and that one of those problems was that the people were not living at the same address that they had filled out on the ballots. “We’re trying to correct that now,” Howard said. “With absentee ballots, you don’t show your ID like you do at the polls, so what we have to do is to try to match it to your signature.” Howard went on to say that doing that posed several challenges. Number one, with age, a person’s hand writing changes and number two, a person uses his or her finger or stylus to write their name on their driver’s license, which distorts their signature. “We are, in turn, having to follow up with phone calls,” said Howard.
Howard went on to say that when some people fill out these absentee ballots, they fail to fill in all the blanks and sometimes they put down the wrong date of birth. Some will even fill out an absentee ballot for someone else, such as a daughter signing one for her father and the signatures don’t match. Some people even forget what party they want to be affiliated with. “This is a primary so you’re going to have to choose that you want to vote democrat, republican or you want to vote non-partisan,” said Howard. “Whatever you check is what you’re going to vote. We don’t know how you want to vote and you can’t cross over to the November election, which is general, so you’ve got to pick a party this time. A lot of them aren’t doing that, so that means we have to follow up on that too.”
According to Howard, in the past, local election offices handled absentee ballots, but now, the Secretary of State uses a private vendor to send out absentee ballots to all registered voters in Georgia. If registered voters have requested absentee ballots, they will receive tem in the mail. After casting his or her vote on the absentee ballot, the registered voter will seal and return the ballot to the local elections office where it is kept in a secure location until the polls close. After the polls have closed, all of the absentee ballots will be scanned and tabulated.
Howard went on to say that since voters will not be able to come to the courthouse to vote, Secretary of State Raffensperger has asked the SCBE to put a box on the outside so that people can pull up and drop their absentee ballots in that box.
A security camera will monitor the box 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the box will be there for another 30 to 60 days after the election just in case people continue to drop stuff off.
Howard went on to say that absentee ballots are not very trustworthy because people can use them for voter fraud. “We received one package the other day where somebody did 20 absentee ballots for 20 different people. Out of the 20, 18 were wrong,” said Howard. “The paper work was not completed right and we had to make phone calls to be sure it was them that did it and then, in turn, we sent them another ballot to fill out so it’s been a mess.”
In spite of the difficulties and challenges that the absentee ballots have posed, Howard stated that the SCBE is moving forward to make sure that every registered voter has the opportunity to vote.
The deadline to register to vote in the General Primary Runoff Election for Federal Offices is Monday, July 13 and that election will take place on Tuesday, August 11.
The deadline to register to vote in both the General and Special Elections is Monday, October 5. Both elections will take place on Tuesday, November 3.
The deadline to register to vote in the General Election and Special Election Runoffs for Local and State Offices is Monday, October 5. The Runoffs for both the General and Special Elections will be on Monday, December 1. The deadline to register to vote in the General Election Runoff for Federal Offices is Sunday, December 7 and the date for the Runoff is on Monday, January 5, 2021.
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