The Newnan Times-Herald

Local

More time for absentee ballots in runoff


  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Dec. 02, 2018 - 3:25 PM

The runoff election for Georgia Secretary of State and Georgia Public Service Commission District 3 is Tuesday, and polling places around Coweta County will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters must go to their designated polling places to cast a ballot. 

If you don’t know your polling place, visit the Georgia My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.us or call 770-254-2615.

Republican Brad Raffensperger and Democrat John Barrow are in the race to replace former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was elected to be Georgia’s next governor. And Democrat Lindy Miller is challenging Republican Chuck Eaton on the PSC. 

Cowetans who have chosen to vote an absentee ballot by mail will have extra time to get their ballots to elections officials, following a decision by interim Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden. Typically, absentee ballots, except those coming from overseas, must be in the Coweta Voter Registration Office by 7 p.m. on election day. But for the runoff, as long as the ballots are postmarked by Tuesday, they have until Friday at 5 p.m. to arrive at the office.

Because a general election runoff is held just four weeks after the general election, there’s already a shorter turnaround time for absentee ballots and a shorter early voting period. This year, the delay in certifying the general election because of extremely close races shortened that time even more, and many counties weren’t able to begin mailing absentee ballots out until Nov. 26 – just eight days before the election. 

Some larger counties print their own ballots and were able to send them starting Nov. 19, Candice Broce, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, told the Fulton County Daily Report. But small counties, including Coweta, use a ballot printing service and were not able to get ballots that soon. 

Coweta Elections Superintendent Jane Scoggins said she was glad to see the announcement of the expanded time for absentee ballots. 

“We had such a short time to get them back,” she said. The Coweta Voter Registration Office was mailing out ballots all week, including on Friday. 

“We mailed out a lot today,” she said on Friday. 

Overall, approximately 1,800 ballots were mailed out and less than 100 had been returned by mail as of Friday, Scoggins said. Voters also have the option of bringing their ballots to the voter registration office, at 22 East Broad St., Newnan, and dropping them in a lock box at the office. Ballots can be brought in from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and until 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Voters must bring in their own ballots, though elderly or disabled voters can have their ballots returned by an immediate family member. 

The agreement will make things a little bit more time-consuming for election officials, “but at least it gives people a chance to get their ballots back, especially if they are out of town,” Scoggins said. “If we mail out those ballots, we want to get them back."

Voters also have the option of having their absentee ballots canceled and voting in person on election day instead. To do so, you must bring your ballot and the envelopes that came with it to your designated polling place, Scoggins said. If you requested an absentee ballot but did not receive it, you must got to the voter registration office to get an affidavit before you can vote at your polling place, Scoggins said. 

The change was in response to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Democratic Party of Georgia. 

Broce told The Daily Report that if the Democrats had approached the office before filing the lawsuits, the secretary of state "would have tried to work with them to resolve this problem. We immediately engaged in those discussions when this lawsuit was filed.”

It’s the second time in a week the secretary of state’s office has agreed to relief sought by a lawsuit. On Tuesday, civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice sued over state laws that severely limit who can serve as an interpreter for a voter or assist a voter. 

Under state law, an interpreter must either be a member of the voter’s family or be registered in the same voting precinct. And those who assisted voters in voting were limited to helping 10 voters. 

Less than a day after that suit was filed, Crittenden announced her office was indefinitely suspending enforcement of that law, according to The Daily Report. 

Scoggins was also glad to see that decision. Voters can now be assisted by anyone of their choice – except their employer or a labor union representative. 

Now, if a nursing home, for instance, brought several residents on a van to vote, “whoever brought them in could help them,” Scoggins said. 

Voters can need assistance if they can’t see well, don’t read well, have questions, or for similar reasons. Anyone assisting a voter must sign an oath.