SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Chatham County Board of Registrars has some messages about absentee ballots as more people are using them because of COVID-19, and ensuring that the voting method, sometimes referred to as mail-in ballots, are safe and secure.
Board Chair Colin McRae told reporters recently that “all state laws are followed in terms of processing and counting ballots.”
He says in the June primary, more than 30,000 voters returned absentee ballots. In the runoff election set for Tuesday, Aug. 11, more than 10,000 voters have already requested absentee ballots.
McRae says in the June primary, several hundred ballots were thrown out because the ballots were returned too late. He says ballots must be returned to the county election office by 7 p.m. on election night.
He says it’s not about the postmark from the post office, it’s about whether election officials have the ballot in their hands.
“We saw some ballots postmarked the Friday before that didn’t get to our office in time,” McRae said.
The chair says to keep in mind that there is no longer a local post office hub, which means mail is routed to Jacksonville, Florida before being sent back to Savannah. So he says you can’t necessarily assume the ballot will arrive on time if you only have a few days.
When in doubt, he says to bring the ballot to the election office on Eisenhower Drive. McRae says you can drop it off inside or use the secure drop off box that is now visible outside the office.
“It’s it’s very prominently displayed right out in front of our main door so you can drop it off there as late as 7 p.m. on Election Day,” he said.
McRae also reminds voters that ballots must be signed.
“Please look at the instructions on the ballot as to how it needs to be filled out how it needs to signed, how it needs to be sealed, etc. because that’s another way for a ballot to be rejected,” he said.
Finally, he says mistakes can be made — but if your ballot gets to election officials soon enough they have remedies to try and help you fix it. This includes sending you back a letter and giving you the opportunity to come in and do whatever you need to do to make sure ballot can be counted.
- Sign ballot
- If you need help in terms of physical impairment, someone else can assist you but they will need to mark the ballot indicating they helped you
- Return the ballot as soon as you can can. When in doubt – drop off the ballot at the Election Office at 1117 Eisenhower Drive (in the back behind the tag office)
- If the ballot is received soon enough and there are any problems, election officials will contact you to allow you to remedy any problems
McRae says the increase in absentees used in June has allowed staff to get the experience it needs to count larger quantities of the mail-in paper ballots.
He is also reminding voters that in June, the Georgia Secretary of State instituted an emergency policy because of COVID-19 and safety concerns about voting in person. The secretary of state’s office sent letters to every registered voter in the state (more than 6,000,000) asking those voters if they wanted to request an absentee ballot.
But now, McRae says things are back to the usual way, i.e. that voters are never asked if they want an absentee ballot. The usual process is that you, as the voter, must take the initiative to request the ballot yourself. You can do that in a number of ways, including going online.
So, there are two steps for the voter which include first, saying you want the ballot, and then receiving the actual ballot in the mail and filling it out.
In terms of safety and security, McRae told reporters last week in response to a tweet from President Donald Trump who has consistently claimed, without evidence, that there is massive fraud in the mail in balloting system that he was “disappointed to see this level of rancor about this distrust in the process.”
“There certainly have been comments recently in the last couple of days questioning the validity of mail-in balloting,” McRae said. “The other reason that I’m disappointed about the level of rancor is that it seems to be pulled out of the air.”
He says the ballots are scrutinized, in terms of signatures, and there are strict election guidelines in place in terms of processing them. McRae also says no one is sent a ballot unless they request one and even during this pandemic, many people are still voting in person.
“So this idea that everybody gets a ballot and that there are just all of these hundreds of thousands of ballots floating around there for anybody to fill out, that’s just not the case,” he said.
“I’d like to convey to voters in Chatham County that at the Board of Registrars, that you know every step is taken to ensure that there is no fraud being carried out in the system,” he said.