SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told a group of Republican lawmakers Monday that the state will be ready for the November election in terms of in-person voting and absentee ballots.
He said problems in the June primary were concentrated for the most part in one large county (Fulton) and that there were scattered problems including some in Chatham County.
“Most polling precincts functioned just fine,” he said. “Georgia has 159 counties. About 140 closed on time and all but a handful were closed by 8 p.m.”
Raffensperger said for the most part, issues surrounded the new voting system involved user error and not a machine functioning problem. He also said some poll workers not trained well enough. Raffensperger acknowledged the pandemic had interrupted the training of some workers and that it also prevented some older workers from participating on election day.
“We delivered the equipment on a tight schedule before COVID,” said Raffensperger.
He also indicated that for the most part county officials, county employees and volunteer poll workers did a good job saying they were on the “front lines trying to run an election during a pandemic.”
“Things our county election officials learned during the pandemic will pay dividends in November,” said Raffensperger.
He also said the state is working to help counties. “We’ve recruited 6,000 Georgians through partner organizations like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and ACLU Georgia and we are providing hour by hour precinct level check in data,” said Raffensperger.
He said the data should help individual counties evaluate where to focus their efforts and resources. Raffensperger also said for those who want to vote absentee the Secretary of State’s office will soon offer a way to request that ballot online which he said would be easier for many people and avoid mailing the request and make it “easy for county elections to process the requests.”
“My office is helping financially where we can and have contracted with a vendor to send ballots to some 500,000 voters (those over 65 and those who are handicapped, Georgians overseas and in the military ) who in June told us they would want to vote absentee in November,” he said.
Finally, he said they have reopened their “Drop Box” grants which allow county officials to apply for up to $3,000 to pay for a secure and locked drop box where people can deposit their absentee ballots if they don’t wish to mail them. 175 boxes have been installed around the state so far.
“We’re also dedicating significant resources to encourage Georgians to vote early,” said Raffensperger. “In Georgia we have 16 days of early voting which will lower the pressure on election day voting.”
He said they will continue working with counties to provide resources to make the November election run smoother.
The Election Roundtable was chaired by Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (Republican from Illinois) and and five republican members of Georgia’s delegation participated.
Several said they were concerned about allowing states to operate their own elections as well as the issue of universal mail in balloting which has gained national publicity but which few states actually have at this point.
Congressman Buddy Carter said he supported the absentee ballot process, which requires a voter to make a specific request to vote absentee. “I too have voted absentee and I think it’s a great way to vote,” said Carter. “But I do have concerns about mailing them out automatically and Secretary Raffensperger has addressed that and I think him for that.”
Raffernsperger reiterating that state law does not allow a blanket mailing of ballots to voters. He reminded lawmakers that because of the pandemic he took the unprecedented step this spring of contacting all active voters in Georgia to ask them if they wanted to consider voting absentee. But the voters were responsible for sending back letters to request the actual ballot.
Christy McCormick from the nonpartisan Election Assistance Commission also took part in the forum. She said that despite word of mail delays in the past month she believes the United States Postal Service does have the capacity to handle increased volumes of election mail. She did indicate that voters should be aware of timelines and make sure they mail back their ballot at least a week ahead of time.
Election officials have told us that absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on election night. That’s why Raffensperger said more will be done to help some counties acquire the drop boxes.