Chatham County Board of Elections prepares for upcoming November election

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In just under two months, Chatham County voters will head to the polls for the November general election.

On November 2, there will be municipal elections in Tybee Island, Thunderbolt, Bloomingdale, Garden City and Port Wentworth.

A special election will also take place for voters in District 165 to fill the late State Representative Mickey Stephens’ vacant seat. Candidates interested in running for the seat must submit qualifying documents between Wednesday and Friday. 

Preparations are underway at the Board of Elections ahead of Election Day. Board Member Antwan Lang expects all polling locations will be fully staffed.

“We have been blessed that we do not have that shortage, but that does not mean that we don’t keep a reserve list of individuals ready to go, ready for the phone call,” Lang said.

Lang is also running for the House District 165 seat. He tells News 3 he plans to qualify on Thursday, which will vacate his seat on the Board of Elections.

Training for poll workers and managers will begin later this month, according to Lang. The county will be introducing new technology in the upcoming election, including electronic ballot marking devices for voters.

In election years without major federal races, Lang says turnout tends to be lower.

“Historically, when we see a ballot like we’re going to see in November you see a very low turnout,” he said. “I’m hoping that that’s not the case. But you usually see a low turnout on ballots where there’s not a gubernatorial, there’s not a U.S. Senate and there’s not a presidential race.”

Lang explained that it’s important to keep voting to avoid becoming inactive, and potentially purged from voter lists. 

Parts of the Election Integrity Act of 2021 will be in effect for the November election. Some of the new rules in place include:

  • Requests for absentee ballots must be made at least 11 days before Election Day
  • An I.D. is required to pick up and return absentee ballots
  • Absentee ballots will be mailed later, between 25 to 29 days before Election Day
  • A new security paper will be used for absentee ballots, with features to authenticate the ballot

Lang expects voters will not notice considerable change until the 2022 election. He said this year, voters will notice the biggest change when it comes to absentee ballots.

“Now you have new guidelines in terms of sending in your absentee ballot, you have new guidelines of what ID you need to receive that absentee ballot and then making sure that you have the same ID or what not going out with that ballot,” Lang said. “Where we’re going to see a major change is on election night or days leading up to election night when we’re counting ballots and people are going to be able to see that we’re able to count earlier early on.”

Some important dates to note are:

  • Monday, October 4 is the last day to register to vote
  • October 11 is the earliest day registrars can mail out absentee ballots to voters
  • Advance in-person absentee voting will begin on October 12
  • Absentee ballot requests must be received by the board by October 22

Ultimately, Lang encourages Chatham County voters to trust the election process.

“Our poll workers’ whole job is to make sure that the elections run smoothly,” Lang said. “They are ready to go home when they are done with the day. They are not trying to stuff a ballot, they’re not trying to have more absentee ballots than necessary or print off more ballots just to give somebody a one up.”

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