Early voting begins in Georgia amid pandemic

Your Local Election HQ

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Advance voting began in Georgia counties Monday for the June 9 primary and presidential preference primary.

While thousands of absentee ballots have been requested in Chatham County, some people still showed up in person to cast their ballots at the Board of Elections Office on Eisenhower Drive.

“We were initially somewhat daunted by the prospect of having to undertake an election with all of the unknowns but also all of the health and safety restrictions that would be in place,” said Colin McRae who is the chair of the Chatham County Board of Registrars. “We are doing our best to follow the guidelines recommended by the Secretary of State with guidance from the CDC.”

All staff are wearing masks and are behind protective barriers. McRae also says only six people are allowed in the voting area at a time and that everyone is being spaced six feet apart.

He says new ballot marking machines and the digital scanner that records the vote are being sanitized frequently and voters (who initially need to fill out some paperwork with a pen and then use a stylist on the ballot marking device) are being given a pen with a stylist at the other end and that voter will be the only one to use it.

“This will be your personal stylis and pen and it won’t be reused in this election,” said McRae, adding that after this election cycle, all of the devices will be sanitized for future use.

He says staff members have worked long hours and the preparation has not been easy, but he feels confident they can safely serve voters who show up in person.

“We hope lines won’t be too long and hope it will be an offset by all the absentee ballots coming in,” said McRae.

Because of the circumstances surrounding this primary, which has been delayed twice, the secretary of state’s office has given every registered voter in Georgia (more than 6,000,000) the option of requesting an absentee ballot. McRae says more than 40,000 absentee ballots have already been requested in Chatham County and says “there’s plenty of time to still request one and fill it out.”

He also told reporters that the secretary of state’s office has sanctioned the use of a special drop off box for absentee ballots for those who don’t want to mail them. McRae says the secure container was installed Monday morning at the Board of Elections on Eisenhower Drive.

On absentee ballots:

1) McRae also said questions over a paper “sleeve” included in the packet have been resolved by the Secretary of State. The “sleeve” is okay to use in terms of placing your ballot inside. Then put the sleeve into the outside envelope and mail it.

2) He also says that issues of having to use extra postage have been resolved, i.e. that the USPS will deliver the ballot whether there is enough postage or not.

On safety:

McRae says that it is recommended that every voter who shows up in person should wear a mask. However, he said it is not required and that no one will be “turned away” because they don’t have a mask. He did make it clear that staff will be wearing masks and gloves, etc.

Early voting:

Available Monday, May 18 through Friday, June 5

  • Monday, May 18 – Friday, May 29
    • Main Office at 1117 Eisenhower Dr., Suite E 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Savannah)
  • Saturday Voting
    • May 30, 2020 at 1117 Eisenhower Dr., Suite E 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Savannah)
  • Monday, June 1 – Friday, June 5 (two locations)
    • Main Office at 1117 Eisenhower Dr., Suite E 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Savannah)
    • Pooler Municipal Court at 100 SW US Highway 80 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

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