SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Election officials across Georgia are preparing for a historic general election in the midst of a pandemic.
Back in June, precincts across the state were plagued with a number of issues during the primaries, including right here in Chatham County.
WSAV NOW spoke with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to learn more about what his office is doing to properly prepare for the general election and prevent what happened in June.
Overall, Raffensperger is encouraging voters to vote early in-person or to vote absentee in order to have shorter lines on Election Day.
Absentee ballot deadlines and early voting dates
The secretary of state’s office sent a request to all registered voters asking if they preferred an absentee ballot this November.
Currently, absentee ballots must be sent back before Election Day on Nov. 3, however, there is a legal battle over an extension to that deadline.
Voters can also drop off their absentee ballots at one of many drop-off locations at their county’s election office.
Early in-person voting starts on Monday, Oct. 12.
What to know about voting in person
Just like in June, voting is going to look different during the pandemic.
Raffensperger says poll workers will be wearing masks and will be sitting behind a plexiglass barrier. There will also be signs on the floor to space voters apart.
“You’re going to say, ‘that’s a really long line.’ Well, it is a long line, but that’s because people are spaced 6 feet,” he said.
Raffensperger says his office has also been working on an app that would tell voters how long the lines are at their given precincts.
Voters are also highly encouraged to wear masks, but a voter will not be turned away if they don’t wear a mask.
Concerns from county officials
Following the mishap in June, Raffensperger says his office has been trying to increase communication with county officials.
Based on conversations, most county officials are most concerned about having enough PPE for poll workers as well as having enough scanners and technicians to help in case something goes wrong with the machines.
“We’re getting instantaneous feedback. They’re getting feedback from us and we think that’s very important that we have this two-way communication,” he said.
Lessons learned from June
“We’re feeling that we’re in much better shape now than we were in June,” said Raffensperger.
Since then, they’ve focused on constantly training their poll workers across the state so they can troubleshoot any situation.
He also said the state will be adding 200 additional precincts across the state to shorten lines and minimize equipment delays because of high usage.
His office is offering county officials to either add more equipment to a frequently visited precinct or to split it in half and create a new precinct.
County officials have also spent this time training poll workers on how to better recognize fraudulent voting or double voting.
When asked about poll workers, Raffensperger said some counties are requesting more while others say they have a sufficient amount.
You can volunteer to be a poll worker here.
Absentee vs. mail-in: What’s the difference?
The terminology “absentee” and “mail-in” ballots have been floating around more frequently since many people are electing to not vote in person because of the pandemic.
For a little bit of clarity, the secretary explains the difference so voters can understand what type of ballot to request if they’re not comfortable going to the polls.
Registered voters can request an absentee ballot, which is a ballot a voter fills out and mails back into their local county election office.
A mail-in ballot, according to Raffensperger, refers to universal mail-in ballots which some states have decided to send out without a voter having to request one.
Georgia has not opted for a universal mail-in ballot, but voters were sent a letter in the mail from the secretary of state’s office asking if they would like an absentee ballot to be sent to them.
Comments on pending litigation
Aside from preparing for the election, the secretary of state’s office is also face two legal battles.
A federal judge ruled a week ago that the office must extend the deadline for absentee ballots, saying to count those that are postmarked on election day.
Raffensperger says his office is planning to appeal the ruling and has suggested voters still send in their absentee ballots back in early.
His office heard arguments Thursday and Friday from activists who claim the new voting machines are unaccountable and unverifiable.
When asked how the later case could impact November’s election, Raffensperger said he “does not deal with conjectures.”