GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – As many expected and even publicly stated, Gilmer County did notice a drop in election voting turnout from the November Presidential Election to January’s Runoff Elections.
However, that drop has many surprised at how little the drop was. November saw 16,576 people cast their votes through one of the four voting paths including Election Day Precinct voting, Advanced in-person voting, Absentee by mail voting, and provisional ballot voting.
January saw 14,847 people vote in the county through those paths.
That equals 74.45 percent of the population in November and 65.17 percent of the population in January according to the Gilmer County Registrar’s Office. Only a 9.28 percent drop. This percentage comes from the Registrar’s records of Registered voters which also increase between the two elections from 22,264 in November to 22,781 in January.
January did see less in-person voting and absentee by mail with in-person reaching 6,292 (November – 8,150) and absentee reaching 2,949 (November – 3,506).
As previously reported, the increases have continued to rise throughout the year, some are calling ballot harvesting by one party as part of the reason for the increases, especially in absentee by mail, though it decreased from November to January. Others are simply citing the current times and consequences as the reason for increases.
Indeed, several people have made note that they are first time voters, like James Short who said he voted in the November election for the first time because it is the most important election he has seen in his life.
Meanwhile, the outcomes and ramifications of the elections, suspected fraud, and division among citizens continues spiraling into increasing tension among the nation and it’s citizens.
These hostilities are even affecting local rural counties as neighbor Pickens County recently posted deputies to polling stations during the January Election. The Sheriff’s Office issued a pre-emptive statement beforehand assuring citizens that there was no present threat. However, the did say that the action was taken due to threats received and dealt with in other counties.
The importance and effects that elections are having on people is continuing to be shown in total votes numbers in counties across the nation. Even with a drop in voting in January’s Runoff Election, Gilmer is still a prime example of this with well over half of its registered voting population turning out for a runoff election.
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.
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.