2020 is a major election year, but what will that look like in the face of a public health emergency? There have been several changes to this year’s voting process in Georgia that will affect the way we vote in the presidential election.
Georgia’s presidential primary election was moved to May 19, the same day as the general primary, in light of the public health emergency declared by Governor Brian Kemp.
“Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Presidential Preference Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 General Primary,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a statement.
Georgia was one of several states to postpone their primary, which would have been Mar. 24 here in the Peach State.
All votes already cast in person and by absentee ballot will still count, even if the voter doesn’t cast a vote in the May 19 primary.
Georgia will also be mailing every active voter an absentee ballot request form in an effort to keep voters safe away from the polls.
However, the form is just a request for an absentee ballot. Voters will still need to send back the request form to receive an absentee ballot, which is due by 7 p.m. on May 19.
The absentee ballot request form will be sent to the address at which you’re registered to vote, so make sure your information is up to date at mvp.sos.ga.gov.
The early voting period will now be April 27 through May 15. That, of course, is dependent on how the virus plays out in our state, but as of now those are the dates.
Another interesting factor for this spring’s elections are the new voting machines in Georgia, which replaced outdated machines that had been in use since 2002. The machines produce a paper ballot that’s printed out and scanned.
Before the primary date was moved, Sheala Bacon went to vote early and found a bit of a snag in the process that she hopes will be resolved by the time early voting starts the second time around.
Much of the voting process is the same as in years past. Bacon entered the precinct, filled out her paperwork, got her card, and went to the machine to cast her vote.
“From getting to the machine to printing and waiting for the printer to finish is maybe 60 seconds,” recalls Bacon. “As I’m leaving, the guy is next to the new scan machine and says, ‘Hey, ma’am, you need to scan.’”
When she took her card over to scan, Bacon saw the potential for a major back-up in the process.
“The thing that I noticed was they had ten voting machines, which is about standard if you go early voting,” says Bacon, “but they only had one of the scan machines. The first thing I thought as I was leaving is, ‘This is going to create a bottleneck if they don’t have more of these scan machines, particularly for people that have a hard time with electronics.’”
In the 2018 presidential election, polling precincts across the state of Georgia reported long lines throughout the day. It seems, then, counterintuitive for the state to implement new, more time-consuming voting machines on such a key election year.
There have also been complaints by voting integrity activists that the large-screen format of the machines will allow other people to see the voter’s selections, and some counties have voted to ditch the new machines altogether.
But with the absentee ballot push by the state, the voting machines might not come into play. It’ll be an interesting issue to follow as the year goes on.