CLAYTON— The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal routines of millions of Americans across the country, and the state of Georgia wants to ensure that every person gets the opportunity to do their civic duty and vote in the May 19 election.
While May 19 is the current election date, it’s possible it could be changed again due the national health emergency.
“The Secretary of State (Brad Raffensperger) is mailing out to all active voters an application for an absentee ballot,” said Tammy Whitmire, Rabun County elections supervisor, on Tuesday.
She said that they should have started being mailed to voters Monday, March 30.
“People need to be looking for an application for an absentee ballot,” Whitmire said.
She said that if someone has not received an application in the mail by April 7 or mid-week next week, then they should contact the Rabun County Board of Elections Office at 706-782-1878 so Whitmire can send them an application.
The application for an absentee ballot can also be found on the state’s “My Voter Page” by visiting mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do and typing in your information in the box on the right-hand side.
You can also register to vote, view your registration status and get the latest election news from this website.
The absentee ballot application can be returned by email, fax, mail or placed in drop box 105 outside the Board of Elections Office.
However, the paper ballot itself can only be submitted via mail or placed in the drop box.
Do I need a separate absentee ballot application for each election?
Every voter will need to fill out and submit a separate absentee ballot application for each election unless they meet certain criteria:
• Age 65 or older
• UOCAVA Voter- Member of armed forces or Merchant Marines of the United States, commissioned corps of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spouse or dependent residing with or accompanying said member, or a United States citizen residing overseas.
“We can send them ballots for the rest of the year,” Whitmire said about voters meeting any of these exceptions.
She said that they will be mailed paper ballots for every election for the rest of the year and do not need to fill out another application.
Whitmire said that it usually only takes a couple of days to receive the ballot in the mail once the application is received at the elections office and entered into the system.
“It’s a pretty fast turnaround,” Whitmire said.
She said that voters can request absentee ballots up until May 15 but said that it’s important to do so as soon as possible so the ballot can be returned back by election day, May 19.
“The earlier they request the ballot the better off they will be,” Whitmire said.
If I voted in the March 24 election does my vote count?
Every voter will be able to vote in the May 19 general primary election and what’s on the ballot depends on whether the voter cast their ballot in the March 24 presidential preference primary.
If you voted in the election on March 24, your votes for presidential preference and ESPLOST have been recorded, Whitmire said.
For the May 19 election “you’ll just get a regular, general ballot,” Whitmire said. She said that the voting system has record of who voted and didn’t vote.
Those who didn’t vote on March 24 will receive a “combined ballot” for the general primary election on May 19, Whitmire said.
This “combined ballot” will have options to vote for presidential preference, ESPLOST and state, federal and local elections.
“This is a primary, so they have to pick a ballot style they want,” Whitmire said, about submitting their application for an absentee ballot.
They would select a political party at the top of the form, whether Democratic, Non Partisan or Republican.
If a voter chooses a “non-partisan” party option, they would only be able to cast votes for Supreme Court Judge, Court of Appeals Judge, Superior Court Judge, Probate Judge and the ESPLOST if they have a “combined ballot.”
Whitmire said that early voting in person is currently set to begin April 27, but that because of the uncertainty and fluid situation of COVID-19 that this could change.
“For everyone’s safety, the state is encouraging them to vote by paper,” Whitmire said. She said they should know closer to that date whether it will change or not.
The Board of Elections Office recommends voters cast their ballot via absentee, especially those with health issues “just to protect themselves,” Whitmire said.
Whitmire said that the office is preparing for early voting as though it is happening and is taking precautions to protect voters and poll workers.
This could include making sure everyone is six feet apart, the equipment is disinfected and having one person vote at a time to minimize risk.
Can I share my completed ballot on social media?
“It’s illegal to take pictures of your ballot,” Whitmire said. She said that if someone posts a picture of their ballot on social media, they could potentially have a case brought against them by the state of Georgia.
“I would not encourage anybody to do that,” Whitmire said.
Can I still register to vote?
You can register to vote through April 20 by going to the “My Voter Page” or contacting the Board of Elections Office.
Whitmire said that elections are on the “essential functions list” for the state and if the state orders everything to shut down, the elections office will stay open.
“If they have any questions, feel free to call the office and we’ll help them get through this time,” Whitmire said.
Board of Elections Office preparations
“For now, we are answering the telephone, checking emails and faxes,” Whitmire said. She said that the office is closed to the public but that forms can be submitted in their drop box.
She said that there are over 12,000 voters in Rabun County and that the office generally receives about 1,000 paper ballots.
Rabun County usually has a 50-60 percent turnout for voting, Whitmire said.
She said that because there is no way to determine how many paper ballots the office will receive for this election and will determine how many workers are needed based on how the situation progresses.“I will bring in the people necessary to get the job done,” Whitmire said.
Contact the Rabun County Board of Elections Office:
Mail: 18 Old Raco High Dr. Suite 105, Clayton
Upcoming election dates:
• May 19-general primary election
• July 21-general primary election runoff
• November 3-general election