Georgians have already returned nearly 600,000 absentee ballots for the June 9 primary and nonpartisan election, but that’s only about 40 percent of the total ballots that were sent out.
In Coweta, there have been 22,000 absentee ballots mailed out, and 8,000 have been returned so far.
“There’s probably about a million ballots right now that are just sitting on people’s kitchen tables – and those are the ones we’re focused on right now,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a press conference Thursday. “Just take the time, today or tomorrow, look at all those elections … fill that out, sign it … and get that mailed back.”
Ballots can be sent back through the mail with a stamp or without — the U.S. Post Office will deliver them either way.
In Coweta, ballots can also be placed in a secure drop box that is outside the Coweta Voter Registration Office, 22 East Broad St. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on election night, or they will not count. A postmark on election day isn’t sufficient, except for overseas ballots.
Because of COVID-19, Raffensperger’s office sent out absentee ballot requests to all active voters in the state of Georgia, and ballots were sent out by a contractor in Arizona – leading to long mailing times for some voters.
But starting Friday, any new ballot requests will be processed locally and the ballots will be mailed out by the Coweta Voter Registration Office, said Elections Director Jane Scoggins.
“We have a little bit more control, and we will mail them as we get (the requests) in,” she said.
Early voting for the June 9 state primary and general election, and the presidential preference primary, which was combined with this election, began two weeks ago. Early voting will be held Saturday and all next week at two locations – 22 East Broad St. in the Coweta Administration Building, and the Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, near the intersection of Lower Fayetteville Road and Highway 154.
Hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. next week.
Voters must abide by social distancing, and are asked – though not required – to wear masks. Single-use paper masks are available for voters that want them. Scoggins said most voters have been wearing masks.
As of midday Thursday, 1,462 Cowetans had cast their votes in person during early voting. Approximately 25 percent of those had already requested absentee ballots and had those ballots canceled so that they could vote in person.
Those who have received absentee ballots and want to vote in person must bring the ballots with them to be canceled. There can be a 15-20 minute wait for the cancelation process.
On election day, it could be even longer, because all cancellations have to be verified with the Coweta Voter Registration office.
“We just want people to send those in,” Scoggins said of the absentee ballots. “Canceling them takes so much time.”
Waits for all voters on election day may be longer because of the various social distancing protocols in place. For smaller polling places, fewer voters will be able to vote at a time.
Most of the people who need to cancel a ballot to vote have brought their ballots with them, said Assistant Elections Director Ashley Gay. But others have been sent home to get them and bring them back.
“If you have that ballot, you have to bring it,” Gay said.
Those who have requested ballots but not received them, or lost them, must sign a form swearing that they either haven’t received the ballot or that it has been destroyed or lost.
People shouldn’t throw their ballots away, Gay said. Instead, people should bring it in and surrender it.
Because of the large number of paper absentee ballots, getting election night results may take longer than usual.
Coweta has a high-speed scanner, part of the equipment that goes with the new electronic voting system. Scoggins said when she tested the scanner, with test ballots, it took 1½ hours to run 1,000 ballots.
However, she said she was being very deliberate with the test run and taking time between batches, so it may be faster than that on election night.
Election workers will be able to start working on the absentee ballots at 10 a.m. on election day, by opening envelopes and unfolding ballots.
For more information or to check the status of your absentee ballot, call 770-254-2615 or visit mvp.sos.ga.gov . You can also view your sample ballot and get directions to your polling place at mvp.sos.ga.gov .