Jackson County residents will have the option to vote in-person both early and on Election Day, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nov. 3 is marked on people’s calendars across the country as the day America will decide on what the next four years of government will look like. But how will the people decide this?
The new normal a few months into the COVD-19 pandemic is that there is no normal. No matter what you want to do, whether it be eating out, shopping or voting; every restaurant, store and county has different safety guidelines in response to the virus.
Jackson County Polls will be Open to Residents
Elections Director Jennifer Logan, of the Jackson County Board of Elections, wants residents to know they will have the opportunity to vote in person.
Some people are just misinformed and think that there is no in-person voting,” said Logan.
Logan explained her office is flooded with absentee ballot applications for the coming election. She suspects this is partially due to the fear of illness, but also because many residents are confused over whether or not they will have the opportunity to vote in person.
Election Code Guarantees In-Person Voting
In the state of Georgia, elections of all levels have to be held in person according to the state election code.
“There is confusion because there has been a lot of talk about absentee voting, but even in the June primaries you could still vote early in person, and you could still vote at your precinct on Election Day,” said Trey Hood. Hood is a professor at the University of Georgia and studies voting administration. “Under state law we have to have that option to vote in person,” said Hood.
Georgia state code O.C.G.A. § 21-2-300 refers to the voting machines used in the state, saying “the equipment used for casting and counting votes in county, state, and federal elections shall be the same in each county in this state and shall be provided to each county by the state, as determined by the Secretary of State.” This means every county in Georgia shall be provided with the state-issued voting equipment. The code then goes on to state “each county shall… provide polling places that are adequate for the operation of such equipment.”
Where to Find Your Polling Place
Each voters’ polling place can be found by logging into the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter page.
In accordance with state law, Jackson County will hold both early voting and Election Day voting in person. Early voting lasts three weeks and will start on Oct. 12 and end Oct. 30. According to the Jackson County website, voters can go to their assigned polling location any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to cast their votes on Election Day.
How Many People Will Vote In Person?
Logan believes even with the large number of absentee ballot requests, Jackson County will still have a large turnout come election time.
“I think we will still have a lot of people voting in person in November,” said Logan.
Jackson County resident Rachel Wells said she was aware she could vote in person in November and plans to do so.
I definitely will vote in person; I want the security of knowing that my vote was counted,” said Wells.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reported more than 800,000 in-person voters on Election Day for the June 9 primary, according to a Sept. 2, 2020 press release, and it estimates a turnout three times as high in November.
If voters chose to go to the polls, they will not be required to wear masks at the polling place. However, masks and gloves will be available to those who want them and social distancing will be enforced.
Voters Have Options
For voters who have already applied for an absentee ballot but would prefer to vote in-person, they still can. They have the option to bring their absentee ballot to the polling place with them and cancel it out for an in-person ballot.
Logan said many people chose this option for the primary elections in June. However, this process takes a little bit longer than the traditional voting process. According to Logan, this resulted in extremely long lines.
Hood explained this was largely in part to the government mailing all active registered voters an absentee ballot application for the primaries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people filled that application out, got a ballot, but then were not normal absentee voters, so they did not get around to turning it back in and instead just brought the ballot with them on Election Day,” said Hood.
Logan said for every election there is a handful of voters who will forget they sent in an absentee ballot and will head to the polls, too.
“The process is so long. You have a 49-day period to vote by mail and then three weeks of early voting. A lot of people don’t realize it’s the same election,” she said.
Their votes are not counted twice, though. Hood said election officials know when a person has already voted by mail-in ballot. Unless they have brought along their absentee ballot to cancel out, they will not be allowed to vote.
Voters do not have to vote in-person; all registered voters are eligible to vote by mail. The Jackson County website states that their office is now accepting applications for mail-in ballots.
Hood recommended that those voting by mail should put their ballot in the mail at least a week before Election Day. Absentee ballots can also be dropped off at your local election office. The Jackson County Board of Elections has an official absentee ballot drop box posted outside of their office.
How to Get a Sample Ballot
Logan asked that voters be informed before coming to the polls or mailing in their ballots. She recommends downloading a sample ballot as a way of seeing what items you will be voting on ahead of time. This way when you get to the polling place, you can make your selections in a timely fashion.
You can find a sample ballot by going to the Georgia Secretary of States’ My Voter page and logging in to find your polling place.
Kate Hester is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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