November 2 is a voting day in Chatham County

Updated November 1, 2021 at 9:58 p.m.

There will be voting in Chatham County on Tues., Nov. 2.  

There have been some changes made to the Georgia Voting Laws in the past year. Georgia’s Legislature revised the state’s voting laws after the 2020 elections, and a bill was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp. 

To keep voters current, here are some facts about the new provisions provided by Molly Aziz of the Georgia House Budget and Research Office as well as some items of local application. 

To vote in Georgia, one must be a citizen of the United States, be a legal resident of the county in which the person votes, be at least 17.5  years of age to register and 18 to vote, not be serving a sentence for a conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude, and not have been found mentally incompetent by a judge.

Also to vote, a person must register. To do this, an eligible person (see above) can contact their local county board of registrar’s (BOR) office (the Chatham County BOR office is located on Eisenhower Dr. next to the county tag office). One can also check with any public library, public assistance office, recruitment office, schools, and other government offices for a mail-in registration form. 

If preferable,  one may download, complete , and mail in a voter registration application. Registration is also offered when someone renews or applies for a driver’s license. College students can obtain Georgia voter registration forms to register in any state in the U.S. from their school’s registrar’s office.

In Chatham County, “the voter is usually required to register  by the fifth Monday prior to an election,” explained Sabrina German with the Chatham County registrar’s office.

Note: If a person hasn’t voted in awhile, it would be wise to check with the registrar’s office housed in the board of elections building on Eisenhower Dr. to confirm that one’s name is still on the voting rolls. If a person has moved and changed address within the County or had a name change, it’s also a good idea to inform the registrar’s ffice of those changes so that the records are current. This makes voting day easier for the voter and the poll workers.

Under the new Georgia Voting Law, early voting periods have been expanded by requiring two mandatory Saturday early voting days and allowing communities the option of voting on up to two Sundays during early voting. Those expanded early voting opportunities are now in effect and allow Chatham County voters more days to vote early.

Those who wish to vote early will find several  locations open Monday-Friday:  Main Office at 1117 Eisenhower Dr.( 8am-6pm), Mosquito Control  at Billy B Hair Dr. (9am-5pm), Civic Center at 301 W. Oglethorpe Avenue( 9am-5pm), Islands Library at 50 Johnny Mercer Blvd (9am-5pm), Southwest Library at  14907 Abercorn Street (9am-5pm).

If a voter chooses to vote by absentee ballot, the new law requires that a driver’s license or state identification number be on the application for an absentee ballot. Voters who qualify as needs-based can be provided a free State ID.

During the 2020 Elections ,  Covid 19 Pandemic emergency measures were adopted by the Secretary of State without state legislative approval. The new voting law ensures Georgia State House Legislative review of any proposed emergency rules. An item which was an emergency measure and is  impacted by changes in the new law would be drop boxes. These were approved as an emergency response. The new law legitimizes drop boxes , but they must be placed in early voting locations (mentioned above), only accessible when the precinct is open for voting, and they must be actively monitored by an onsite official to secure the ballots and the chain of custody.

The new law requires that security paper (with special  properties) be used for authentication of ballots. Mobile polling locations (vans, etc.) are now not allowed, as is private funding for elections (private hiring of election workers or paying for drop boxes).

The new law removes the Secretary of State as the de facto chair of the Board of Elections and gives the Georgia Legislature the authority to vote on the person to serve as chair. 

This would seem to provide a check and balance to state election oversight, as the same person who runs the election in Georgia—the Secretary of State—is not the same person who chairs the State Board of Elections, which evaluates how well the election was run.

When voting in person , the voter will be using the same machines that were used in the 2020 election, along with a similar procedure. 

Upon entering the active voting area, the voter will be guided to the express poll station and will be asked for  identification. The voter  may offer a driver’s license, state-issued ID, a valid passport, a military ID with photo, a valid tribal ID card with photo, or any acceptable ID from a federal, state, county, or municipal agency  with photo. 

The poll worker will then produce a voter card to give to the voter who will take that card to the touch screen machine and mark a ballot. That machine will print out a paper ballot which the voter takes to the ballot box to be scanned and officially voted.

Voters should check the paper ballot before placing it in the ballot box to make sure the ballot is marked as they intended. If it is not, the paper ballot should be taken to a poll worker or manager to be cancelled so the voter can vote a new and correct ballot.

This November, the ballots have very few items to be considered. 

In many areas of the County the only item on the ballot will be the ESPLOST Referendum. That Referendum asks voters if they wish to extend the one cent Educational Sales Tax for a period not to exceed 20 calendar quarters in order to raise funds for specific Chatham County Public School District projects.

At 23 polls there will also be a vote to fill a vacant Georgia House seat for district 165. And in Bloomingdale, Garden City, Port Wentworth, Thunderbolt, and Tybee Island there will also be municipal elections on the ballot.

Whether the ballot asks the voter to vote on one item, the ESPLOST Referendum, or all three issues, “the voting time should be short, assuming the voter has read the referendum before entering the booth . The ballot is uncomplicated,”said Billy Wooten, Supervisor of Elections in Chatham County.

Published October 27, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

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