111120_MNS_general_election_003 man voting

A man votes at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church precinct in Buckhead during the Nov. 3 general election.

If you’re a Fulton County resident wanting to vote for candidates in both the District 5 U.S. House of Representatives and District 39 Georgia Senate runoff elections Dec. 1, you’ll have to cast two separate ballots to do so, whether it’s via absentee, early voting or Election Day.

The prospect of residents being confused by having to vote for candidates on two different ballots drew the ire of District 5 Fulton Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr.

“The idea voters have to register twice (when you check in at the polls) is befuddling at best,” he said. “You’re telling me an 80-year-old has to get in line and vote once and then get in line again and vote a second time?”

Arrington spoke during an election update given by Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, at the county board of commissioners’ Nov. 18 recess meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barron said since the District 5 election is a federal one and the District 39 race is a statewide one, the separate ballots are required “because of two different databases and two different start dates for early voting.”

Early voting for the District 5 election to replace the late John Lewis will run Nov. 9 through 25, but in the District 39 campaign, it will only be held Nov. 23 through 25. Barron said early voting for the District 39 election is being delayed because it can’t start until after the state certifies the Nov. 3 general election, which won’t happen until Nov. 20, the deadline.

Of the two-ballot issue, he said, “It’s unfortunate. I wish there was something I could do about it. … I think because the state was going to try to move all the elections up. With Senate District 39, the state looked at all the races possibly being moved, and it was one of the races they couldn’t move.”

Vincent Fort, who held the District 39 seat from 1997 to 2017 before running for Atlanta mayor, said he received calls from several voters who said they weren’t allowed to cast a ballot for that race in the Nov. 3 general election or had to ask to vote in it, because residents had to cast separate ballots, calling it “a fiasco.”

Of the runoff, Fort said, “It could be a super fiasco by Dec. 1 since the elections office plans to have two sets of election machines on Dec. 1 and in early voting.”

Commissioners Liz Hausmann (District 1) and Joe Carn (District 6) both said the runoff’s polling precincts should have lots of large signs to inform voters they would have to cast separate ballots for the two runoffs. Arrington suggested the county should also send mailers to registered voters eligible to vote in both elections to warn them of the two-ballot issue.

Barron said it may be too late for the mailers since early voting has started in one runoff and the post office will be delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday but signs will be posted, and he added poll workers have been trained to inform voters they’ll have to cast two ballots to vote for both runoff races.

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