Social distancing will be required at polls June 9

  • File photo. Social distancing will be required at polls June 9.
    File photo. Social distancing will be required at polls June 9.
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CLAYTON— The presidential preference primary and general primary election is now slated for June 9, 2020 due to the coronavirus public health emergency.

The state of Georgia plans to hold in-person early voting that runs May 18-June 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This will be at the Rabun County Board of Elections Office, 18 Old Raco Dr. Suite 105, Clayton.

Voter registration ends May 11.

Tammy Whitmire, elections supervisor, explained in a press release Tuesday the procedures that will be put in place for early voting and on election day.

“Social distancing will be in place, which means 6 ft apart and only one voter at a time in the office to vote,” Whitmire noted.

“We would also like for the public to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to help protect themselves and poll workers.”

Whitmire said in the statement to expect longer wait times because of the safety measures.

She said that the ballot itself is long with both the presidential preference primary (if you hadn’t voted prior to the original date change before COVID-19) and general primary being on the same ballot.

“This could also add to your wait time,” Whitmire stated.

She said that this social distancing will be in effect on election day, June 9, as well.

“Again, keep in mind that you could have longer wait time and be at a higher risk. Please wear personal protective equipment to protect you and those around you,” Whitmire emphasized.

Absentee Ballot Information

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger began mailing out absentee ballot applications for the election on Monday, March 30.

Whitmire said in an April interview that these applications will have the May 19 election date because they were mailed out before election date changed.

She said these same applications can still be filled out and turned in to receive an absentee ballot for the June 9 election.

The state already knows that this ballot application is for this particular election.

“When people get that [application], they can go ahead and turn them in so they can get their ballots when ready,” Whitmire said.

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.

Whitmire said that if someone has not received a ballot application in the mail by May, they should contact the Rabun County Board of Elections Office at 706-782-1878 so one can be sent to them.  

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 application for an official absentee ballot is available for all voters and gives you the safety of voting at home,” Whitmire noted in Tuesday’s statement.

“As we have come to learn, things can change rapidly so voting by mail may be a good option,” Whitmire said.

For any questions or if you need an application for an official absentee ballot, contact the Board of Elections Office at 706-782-1878.

Turnaround time for receiving ballot

Whitmire said that voters should turn in their application as soon as possible so that they can receive a ballot to mail in by election day.

“The earlier you get your application in, the better off you will be,” Whitmire said.

The ballot has to be returned by election day on Tuesday, June 9.

She said that although this seems like a significant amount of time, it’s not long when considering the process that it takes the state to mail out the applications and receive

them back and then mail out the ballots and receive those back.

Whitmire said that people need to remember that it’s the state mailing these out, not the local elections office.

The state then takes the data from the system to mail ballots to active voters. Voters then turn in their completed ballot to their local elections office.

Whitmire said that this process is completed for 6 million plus voters, so that’s why it’s important to submit them sooner rather than later.

Whitmire said that the state mails the absentee ballot application to the residence where the voter is registered.

 If I voted early for the March 24 presidential primary, does my vote count?

Every voter will be able to vote in the June 9 Presidential Preference Primary and General Primary election and what’s on the ballot depends on whether the voter cast their ballot in the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary election.

Whitmire said in an earlier interview that if you voted in the election on March 24, your votes for presidential preference and Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) have been recorded.

For the June 9 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 June 9, 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.

Voters 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 if they have a combined ballot, the ESPLOST.

Whitmire said that the last day to file a notice of intent to be considered as a write-in candidate is September 8 because of the process that must be adhered to prior to election day.

Expect straw polling questions on your ballot

Voters who opt for either a Republican or Democratic ballot will be asked to answer “straw poll” questions.

“That’s when the parties want to get a fill about how their constituents would vote [on a particular issue],” Whitmire said in an interview Tuesday.

She said it gets the “temperature” of what constituents think about certain issues and how they would potentially respond if the subject were enacted into legislation.

These are non-binding questions and are strictly for research purposes, she emphasized.

Whitmire said that these questions would potentially be put on the ballot in November after the political party goes through the process to submit them for legislation.

If it is voted on and passed in November it goes into effect, Whitmire explained.

She said that it’s a good idea to submit “straw poll” questions because it gives an idea about whether a piece of legislation would potentially pass in November.

“That gives both parties an opportunity to see what their constituents are interested in,” Whitmire said.

She said that some politicians can use the “straw poll” questions for lobbying purposes.

Republican ballot

There are eight straw poll questions on the Republican ballot that gauge voter views on topics such as the Second Amendment, President Donald Trump’s wall and the repaving and widening of Highways 441.

Ed Henderson, secretary for the Rabun County Republicans, said that to his knowledge there have never been straw poll questions on the GOP ballot in Rabun County.

“This has never been done locally,” Henderson said.

He said that the party decided to add the questions because “it’s a way for Rabun County voters to weigh in for and against.”

He said that the question about widening and repaving Highway 441 is “very particular to Rabun County.”

Democratic ballot

There are six straw poll questions on the Democratic ballot that will poll voter opinions on topics like protecting the environment, being allowed to register to vote on election day and restoration of voting rights after serving time for a crime.

“It’s pretty much in the mainstream of democratic thinking,” said Bill Stueck, chairman of the Rabun County Democrats, about the subject matter of the questions.

Contact information for questions

You can view a sample ballot by visiting your “My Voter Page” at 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, track your absentee ballot and get the latest election news from this website.

The Rabun County Board of Elections Office is located at 18 Old Raco Dr. Suite 105, Clayton and can be reached by calling 706-782-1878.