CLAYTON— The Rabun County Board of Elections Office is gearing up for the Nov. 3 election amidst the coronavirus pandemic and has received an influx of absentee ballot requests as a result.
“This year, because of COVID-19, we have 3-4 times more ballots than we’ve ever had,” said Elaine Lawson, absentee ballot clerk.
Tammy Whitmire, elections supervisor, said that there has definitely been an upswing in the number of absentee ballots requested.
“Especially [from] those in the elderly population who are at risk,” Whitmire said.
To compare, the 2016 presidential election yielded 923 votes by mail in Rabun County. The office received approximately 1,656 absentee ballot votes just in June’s presidential preference primary, Whitmire explained.
“From our office, we’ve mailed out approximately 375 ballots,” Lawson said. She said that the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, which mailed out the first batch of ballots, mailed out over 2,000 for the county.
The 400 received are from ballots mailed out by both the local office and the Secretary of State’s office.
“I expect a large number [of absentee ballot votes] in November,” Whitmire said. “We are preparing for that.”
Lawson said that this increased number of ballots has not impacted the system they have in place to process them.
“We’re still doing the same thing we’ve always done. Double checking, triple checking,” Lawson said.
She did say that the ballots will begin being counted the day before the election.
“Because of the increased number, they (Secretary of State) are letting us start opening them on Monday,” Lawson said.
She said that the ballots will be opened that day and counted to ensure everything is accounted for, but they will then be sealed back up until the day of election where they will be scanned into the system.
Lawson said that because it is a lengthy ballot, she recommends anyone who has trouble standing in lines for long periods of time might consider voting via absentee ballot.
She assured that every single vote will be counted so voters should not be leery of voting by mail.
“If they get them back to our office, they will be counted,” Lawson said. She said that there is a ballot box outside of the election’s office where ballots can be placed.
This ballot box is monitored by a surveillance system, Whitmire said. All ballots are due by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Lawson said that voters are welcome to turn in their ballot directly to a poll worker at the office, and that several people have already hand-delivered their ballots.
Absentee ballots can be requested up until October 30.
But Lawson said that any voter who wishes to request an absentee ballot should do so “as early as possible because of the number we have to process.”
Voter registration and early voting deadline
Oct. 5 is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election if you have not registered yet.
Early voting takes place at the Rabun County Board of Elections Office, 18 Old Raco Dr. Suite 105, Clayton.
Early voting dates and times:
Oct. 12-16 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 19-23 and 26-30 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The elections office is offering two Saturdays for early voting to give voters an extra Saturday to cast their ballot.
Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Election day is Nov. 3 at the Rabun County Civic Center and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.