ELLIJAY, Ga. – Once again, Gilmer County is returning to the ballot box for the early voting procedures for the 2020 elections, though this time addressing the runoff elections.
With the actual election day in January and early voting continuing through the end of 2020, Sherri Jones, boardmember of the Board of Voter Registration and Registrar for Gilmer County, said that the lines have been going smoother than in November. Sharing with FYN an update, she noted that many citizens have commented on the easier and quicker progression through the lines.
Jones said the staff has stayed very busy with three check-in stations processing voters and five voting machines in operation. She also noted that they have run four check-in stations if a line starts to build up as well. This is not any different as Jones said they operated similarly in the November Election.
However, Jones said a smaller ballot helps some as people are spending less time on the machines deciding and registering their votes. As they have gone through their first two completed days of operation in early voting, Gilmer saw 576 early voters on Monday, and 601 early voters on Tuesday. As they near completion of their third day, Jones said they have audited their lines and operations several times, never seeing more than a maximum of 15 minutes waiting in line.
But in almost three days, the in-person total of 1,637 in-person voters are only a third of the story. Jones said that between the state and county, they have 3,368 registered ballots in the mail locally and another 42 ballots sent digitally to those in military service overseas.
These are being returned via mail or through the ballot-box drop-off in front of the courthouse. Processing these comes with its own challenges as officials must register the ballots, confirm signatures, and, in some cases, re-mail confirmations. Jones said that a few of their by-mail ballots have had to have confirmation forms sent out to re-affirm signatures that may have been questioned or rejected. Jones said that, for example, they cannot accept ballots signed by a spouse. Citizens voting by mail should keep an eye out just in case they might be one of the few needing to sign a secondary form.
However, with all the normal challenges of operating the early voting process, Jones said the biggest issue they have faced so far is faith in the machines.
Jones said that they have had several people questioning their votes and the Dominion software used in counting them.
She said the office is assuring the public that they have confirmed the operations and counting software after having gone through the November Election, an audit and hand-counted-recount of that election, and a second recount of the ballots through the machines. All of which matched “to the ‘T,'” according to Jones.
They are continuing early voting through the next two weeks until New Years as the office is remaining open except for the recognized holidays. As previously reported from Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins, as of now, early voting will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24 and 25, as well as for New Year’s Day, January 1.
COVID task force: Not the time to be complacent
The Gordon County COVID-19 task force is encouraging people to continue following safety guidelines. COVID-19 cases in Gordon County rose to 240 over the last two weeks, compared to 170 in the two weeks prior.
The task force released the following statement:
“Over the last couple of weeks cases in Gordon County, the State of Georgia and the country have increased after multiple weeks of declines in case numbers. As these numbers declined people may have become more relaxed on precautions such as social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands, staying home if you are sick and the wearing of masks. As these numbers continue to trend upward this is not the time to become complacent and lose the gains we have made. We are asking each citizen and family to please remain diligent to keeping yourself and your family as safe as possible by continuing to observe recommendations from public health officials.
We will continue to monitor situations daily and do all that we can to keep our citizens safe. Since the beginning of this pandemic we have worked diligently to try and stay ahead of this virus as a team here in Gordon County. We ask that our citizens continue to do the things that can be done during this time to help our community as a whole. If you do feel you need to be tested the Gordon County Health Department continues testing at the Gordon County Senior Center which is currently closed to normal operations. The Senior Center is located at 150 Cambridge Court in Calhoun and free testing will be conducted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30-4:30. No appointment is needed for this testing.”
The COVID-19 task force meets every two weeks and communicates daily. It includes members of emergency management, the hospital, and other government officials.
Gordon Central High School and Sonoraville High School go to hybrid schedule as COVID rates increase
Early voting sees record numbers
The Gordon County Elections Office received a verbal pat-on-the-back after Commissioner Bud Owens commended them.
“I’ve had so many people tell me what a great experience it was, that it ran smoothly, the staff was nice,” Owens told the commissioners.
County Administrator James Ledbetter said more than 6,000 people have voted early in Gordon County and the poll workers have worked to keep everything safe.
“They have one who opens the doors for people so voters won’t have to touch the doors,” he said, adding that the voting cards and machines are sanitized after each use.
Alcohol license suspended
The commissioners voted to suspend the alcohol license for Rainbow Corner, 4594 Dews Pond Road, after several violations. The violations include selling alcohol and tobacco to people under the age of 21 and allowing a convicted felon to be the holder of the license. The suspension will remain in effect until at least the November 3 meeting, when the board will decide to reinstate the license or continue the suspension.
The commissioners awarded a contract for janitorial services at the Agriculture Center to ICS Cleaning Service for $9,000. Although it was not the lowest of the seven bids, it was under the $12,000 maximum amount. The lowest bid was Hammi Building Services at $6,771.96 but they did not receive the recommendation because while they currently hold the contract, the county has received complaints about their performance.
“They just weren’t getting the job done, that’s why we put it out to bid,” said Ledbetter.
In other news:
- The board appointed Jim Bradley, the ordinance officer, as the agent responsible for deciding if abandoned mobile homes are derelict, giving landowners another level of due process to get rid of unwanted trailers left on their property.
- Tax bills are mailed.
- Work is underway at the courthouse annex, which will become the main courthouse upon completion. Plans include extending it and adding a level to it.
- The county is interviewing the most qualified candidates for the position of financial director.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Early Voting is well underway in Gilmer County with lines stretching around the block some days. Citizens are adamant in exercising their right to vote in this major election.
As people prepare and plan on their trips to the ballot box through either early voting or on election day, November 3, 2020, the Registrar’s Office of Gilmer County is providing all the information available.
Staying open later in the day until 6:00 p.m. and even opening this Saturday, the office is following requirements by law and attempting to maintain social distancing while providing this service. According to Chief Registrar and Gilmer County Elections Manager, Tammy Watkins, the full operation times for early voting are:
Monday October 19th thru Friday October 23rd 8:30am – 6:00pm
Saturday October 24th 9:00am until 4:00pm
Monday October 26th thru Friday October 30th 8:30am – 6:00pm
As people are continuing to gather in large droves at the Gilmer County Registrar Office (1 Broad St Suite 107 Ellijay, GA 30540) the office is also providing sample ballots in multiple locations including inside the office, through local media, through the county website, and below this article.
Another new addition comes in the form of the Absentee Ballot Box drop-off located at the Gilmer County Courthouse. Located around the corner from the office, the drop-off box is next to the main entrance of the courthouse (pictured right).
Citizens who wish to find out more or wish to ask questions can contact the Registrars Office at 706-635-4617.
Additionally, for those preparing for voting on Election Day, the Voter Registration page of the County Website provides locations for each of the voting precincts in the county near the bottom of the page.
RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is providing guidelines for voters and local polling locations to help protect the health of North Carolinians during the voting process. In addition, NCDHHS and the NC Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management provided personal protective equipment to local election boards and locations.
North Carolina residents who plan to vote in-person should wear a face mask and keep it on throughout the voting process, stay 6 feet apart from others while at the polling location, and wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after voting.
“Everyone should make their voting plan, and just like going to the grocery store, take your mask and wait apart from others. I’ll be voting in person during early voting,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
NCDHHS also issued guidelines to local polling locations to protect people while they vote, work or volunteer at voting locations. Masks are required in public and voting places must have enough masks to provide one to anyone who does not have one. If a voter has an exception for wearing a mask, election workers should try to accommodate them and should not turn voters away.
Election workers at voting locations must routinely clean and disinfect high-touch areas, such as doors, tables and chairs, with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — especially during peak voting times. Many locations are providing single-use pens to voters.
The guidelines, adapted from the CDC’s Considerations for Election Polling Locations and Voters, also require elections officials to post signage at each voting place reminding voters and workers about social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others. Officials are required to provide physical markers, such as tape on floors or signs on walls, to help ensure people remain at least 6 feet apart.
Additionally, county boards of elections must:
- Require election workers and observers to wear a mask when social distancing is or may not be possible, unless they state an exception applies.
- Require election workers to encourage people to wear a mask while they vote or campaign and offer masks to those who are not wearing them.
To monitor the health of elections workers, county boards of elections are required to:
- Immediately separate and send home election workers who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day.
- Conduct daily symptom screening of workers before opening the voting place each day.
- Post signage at the main entrance asking people who have a fever and/or a cough not to enter. Signage from the NCDHHS Know your Ws campaign is available to download.
All 100 county election offices have received gloves and face shields for poll workers; disposable masks for workers and others who do not have a mask; and hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and paper towels. Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s donated a portion of the hand sanitizer to the Association of State Election Directors. NCDHHS and NCDPS are providing the rest of the supplies and equipment. Additionally, the NC State Board of Elections is sending single-use pens to county election offices for use as needed.
Interim Guidance for Election Voting Locations and guidelines for Voting Safely During COVID-19 can be found at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/guidance#election-voting.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the presidential election less than a month away, yesterday saw Gilmer County’s first day of early voting with lines stretching far out the door and down the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
According to Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins, the county saw a total of 470 people vote early on the first day.
This is no shock, however, as the Registrars Office also reported record breaking turnouts this year in the June elections. At the time, Registrar Sherri Jones said that Friday, June 5, 2020, the final day of early voting, was their busiest day of the entire cycle.
However, that busiest day ended with 161 voters casting their ballots. This Presidential Election is already shattering any expectations from citizens and authorities. The line stretched long well past noon yesterday, and was wrapping around the square today as citizens lined up in the opposite direction.
Early voting has also taken up extra space. The Board of Commissioners, amid budget meetings this week, held their meetings in the Jury Assembly Room. While most of their meetings are being held there currently, due to needs for Social Distancing amid the Coronavirus, they also said their conference room is being used by elections and office staff as the early voting machines are spreading out through the Registrar’s Office to supply enough machines for early voting while also maintaining the same Social Distancing guidelines.
Citizens don’t seem to mind as some, who have never voted, are showing up for the first time ever. One person, who declined to give his name, said he searched and registered this year just to vote against those he saw as attacking the president and the current office.
Gilmer is also adding a new drop-off box this week for absentee ballots. Set in the parking lot of the courthouse, the new box is to be bolted into the ground allowing those dropping off ballots to not have to wait in line.
Watkins said in a meeting with the commissioners last week before early voting that absentee ballots could also be seeing minor issues with some as they originally request an absentee ballot or are on a rollover absentee list, but want to cancel their absentee ballot and vote in person.
Watkins explained that this happened in the last election as a large number of ballots request forms were sent out.
Additionally, if a request is marked with certain health or physical disabilities, these people can be put on a rollover list for absentee ballots as well.
While not an issue to handle and fix, the massive turnout already seen will inflate problems in this election as staff are keeping up with the number of people while also dealing with the usual corrections and details that come normally with early voting.
With no clear number on the amount of absentees that could be since we are so early in the cycle, the first day of early voting nearly tripled the busiest day from the last election. As the campaigns continue and more people find time to go to the Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad St., in Ellijay, the numbers are looking like they will only go up from here to shatter previous records in early voting for the county.
BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Long lines continued all week at the Union County Courthouse as residents eagerly cast their early votes for the 2020 General Election.
With over 1,885 ballots cast thus far, Union voters are out in force four days into voting. The total doesn’t include absentee ballots. Sources say they empty absentee ballot box drop off several times a day. In Georgia, the total number of votes cast as of noon on October 16 is 1,217,277.
The Board of Elections and Registration have taken over the jury room on the first level of the Union County Courthouse, and voters line up outside and socially distance to provide added safety against COVID-19. Due to a judicial order that anyone entering a Georgia Courthouse must wear a mask and have their temperature checked, all early voters should bring a face covering to wear while voting.
Some voters already disgruntled over COVID-19 mask requirements make it known with one individual voting while wearing a “this is communism” mask about the face-covering conditions.
Two others gave up waiting in line and left with intentions of coming back later.
One young male early voter said he enjoyed early voting and regularly made an effort to vote before election day. When asked if he expected to wait in line, he affirmed that he didn’t. In previous elections, he “walked right through” and cast his ballot within 15 minutes.
Current wait times are around 30 to 45 minutes, with over 700 people voting on Thursday, October 15.
The voter’s response to Fetch Your News’ question if the high early voting turnout was due to COVID-19 or the 2020 election’s importance. He said, “I hope it’s the election.”
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, early voting is up 62 percent, and accepted absentee ballots are up 732 percent compared to the 2016 early voting numbers. These statistics measure against the first four voting days.
A first-time voter and female college student expressed that she felt an urgency to vote in this election and was glad about the large early vote turnout. She didn’t expect it but took it as a good sign. She added that her friends would be voting as well.
The total number of early ballots cast is 615,993, and absentee totals are 601,344 for the entire state. Union County reportedly has more than 4,000 absentee ballot requests. However, Voters who wish to cast a ballot in-person but have already requested an absentee should surrender that absentee at the polls. Voters can track their absentee ballot at https://georgia.ballottrax.net/voter/.
The absentee ballot drop box is outside the top-level entrance to the courthouse, mounted to the wall.
An older voter addressed a problem with his absentee ballot, so he was waiting in lines in hopes of early voting. His problem was that he never received an absentee ballot after requesting one. The individual had recently moved, and the ballot might have reached the wrong address.
Early voting will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until October 30 at the courthouse. The one day of Saturday voting is October 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots can be requested until October 30 and must be received by the local election’s office by 7 p.m. on November 3.