Though it has shifted multiple times, Election Day, June 9, is fast approaching, and voting in person will be quite different this time around, according to local elections officials.
June 9 will be the day to vote for local primary elections, as well as the presidential preference primary. General elections will be held on Nov. 3.
Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler says her office is encouraging as many people to vote by mailed-in ballot as possible to lighten the load during early voting and on Election Day.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced last month that all of Georgia’s nearly 7 million active voters would be mailed absentee ballot request forms for the primary elections, as his office continues to encourage voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
By May 1, more than 1 million Georgians had requested absentee ballots, “shattering all previous records,” Raffensperger’s office reported.
“Our goal was to keep voters safe and take the pressure off of our in-person voting locations,” Raffensperger said at a recent Capitol news conference. “We have more than achieved that goal.”
Eveler said in-person early voting locations and precincts alike will be taking precautionary measures, which will likely slow down the voting process significantly.
“For all in-person voting, we’ll be doing social distancing. We’ll only be able to put out enough equipment where people can be 6 feet apart,” she said, adding that that also means many voters will have to wait outside in lines, where sidewalks will be marked with X’s. “
Election workers will be wearing masks, but the elections office will not require voters to do so, though it is recommended, she said. Styluses and voter cards used with the touchscreen voting machines, as well as high-contact surfaces, such as the machines themselves, will be sanitized after each voter uses them.
Eveler noted that some precincts, such as gymnasiums, will be large enough that all the voting machines previously planned to be set up will be allowed. Other smaller locations may see a reduction in machine installations.
She also said coronavirus concerns have caused staffing shortages, with many poll workers now unwilling to work at the polls, and voting hours throughout early voting will be reduced as a result.
Three weeks of early voting begins May 18, when the main elections office at 736 Whitlock Avenue, less than a mile and a half west of North Marietta Parkway, will open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, from May 18 until June 5. Original hours were from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The main office will also be available for Saturday voting on May 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Beginning June 1, four other locations will be open for in-person voting. The four additional locations, which will be open for advance voting 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday are:
♦ (North) North Cobb Senior Center: 3900 S. Main St., Acworth
♦ (South) Riverside EpiCenter: 135 Riverside Parkway, Austell
♦ (East) East Cobb Government Service Center: 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
♦ (West) West Cobb Senior Center: 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
There will be no voting on Saturday, May 23 or June 6, or on Monday, June 8. There will also be no voting on Sundays.
Voting hours on Election Day will remain 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at designated precincts.
Eveler said there were originally 10 locations that would have hosted voters during the third week of advance voting, but coronavirus concerns have reduced that availability. Likewise, some of the 144 voting precincts in Cobb will drop off the list or will have to be changed.
While voters should still check the Georgia My Voter Page to look up the precinct to which they should report on Election Day, Eveler said, some may also receive a letter in the mail informing them that their precinct has been the subject of an emergency change. She said the elections office will also make precinct change announcements on social media and on its website.
“Depending on how many this happens to, we’ll send letters out to those who are impacted, but if we end up having half of (the precincts) dropping off, then we probably won’t be able to do that,” Eveler said.
The elections director reiterated that she hopes as many voters as possible will vote by absentee ballot, which they can return by mail, drop off at an early voting location or drop off at newly installed ballot drop boxes:
♦ East Cobb Government Service Center: 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
♦ South Cobb Government Service Center: 4700 Austell Road, Austell
♦ North Cobb Regional Library: 3535 Old 41 Highway, Kennesaw
♦ Elections Main Office: 736 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta
Eveler said those who still decide they want to vote in-person will be asked to have patience with the fewer poll workers who will need to sanitize items and surfaces, as well as limit the number of people allowed in a building at one time.
“So obviously,” she said, “they better be prepared to wait.”