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Early voting begins Monday, Feb. 19, in Georgia’s presidential primaries
Still 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats on the ballots

Despite what you’ve heard about President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump having their parties’ nominations more or less sewn up, Georgia has a presidential preference primary March 12 with three candidates on the Democratic ballot and 11 candidates on the Republican ballot. And the opportunity for in-person early voting begins Monday.

As mandated by current Georgia election law, there will be three weeks for early voting, including two Saturdays. In Bulloch County, the one place to vote early in-person will be the elections office in the County Annex, 113 North Main St., Suite 201, Statesboro. Hours for advance voting will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Feb. 19-March 8, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, March 2.

Yes, on the Republican side, many of the best-known candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, pharmaceutical company founder Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have dropped out of the race, at least to the extent of suspending their campaigns.

Other than Trump, the one high-profile, well funded candidate still actively campaigning is Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor.

But the Republican ballot in Georgia’s presidential preference primary still includes all of these candidates: Ryan L. Binkley, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Perry Johnson, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, David Stuckenberg and Donald J. Trump.

The latest guidance that Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones received from the Elections Division at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office on Feb. 7, was that none of those candidates had officially withdrawn, she said Thursday. So, for now, she won’t even be putting up those signs at voting places that often inform voters of candidates who have withdrawn but whose names are still on the ballot.

“Usually if a candidate withdraws in a proper way, then we put up a notice so voters will know, and in contacting the state for clarity about that, it’s my understanding that none of the additional candidates have officially withdrawn,” Jones said. “They’ve just suspended their campaigns.”

On the Democratic ballot, the three candidates are Joseph R. Biden Jr. (incumbent), Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson. Philips, U.S. representative from Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district, has served as CEO of his family’s Phillips Distilling Company, based in Minneapolis, and owned some other companies. Williamson, author of self-help books and former spiritual leader of the Church of Today, a Unity Church in Warren, Michigan, also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, but eventually endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders.


Choose a party

To vote in the presidential preference primary, voters must choose either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party ballot. But Georgia does not have party registration for voters. So choosing a party in the presidential primary will not bind a voter to choose th  same party in any other election, not even Georgia’s May 21 general  primary and nonpartisan general election, Jones confirmed.

The May 21 primary will be for county offices, state legislative seats and U.S.  House seats and also includes a general election for nonpartisan positions such as judgeships and school  board seats. It is entirely separate from the March 12 presidential primary.

If voters aren’t already registered, it’s too late to register to vote in the March 12 presidential primary, since the registration deadline was Feb. 12. However, there’s still time to register to vote or update your registration address or name for the May 21 general primary and nonpartisan general election. That deadline is April 22.


Absentee ballots

For the presidential  primary, no-excuse, paper absentee ballots are also available to be mailed to Bulloch County registered voters at the address where they are currently registered within the county or at a requested temporary address  outside of the  county. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is March 1.

Bulloch County residents choosing to vote early in-person  will experience one change that has been  made since the last state elections. There will no longer be a check-in area across the lobby  from the Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration Office, so voters can proceed directly to the elections office itself. Instead of voters having  to  fill out  an application, Poll Pad devices will be used to check ID  and program ballot cards directly, working the  same  as at Election Day precincts, Jones said.


Other reminders

Photo ID is required for all forms of voting. Accepted types include a Georgia driver’s license or valid ID card with photo issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the state of Georgia, another state; or a valid U.S. passport; or photo employee identification card issued by the U.S. government, this state, or any county, municipality board or authority, or valid U.S. military identification card or tribal identification card with photograph.

Voters can check their registration, find polling place directions, get an absentee application form or see a sample ballot online by visiting the statewide My Voter Page,

All of Bulloch County’s 16 traditional Election Day voting precincts will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. March 12 for presidential primary voters who haven’t voted early. Voters are reminded that the Statesboro Precinct, which previously voted at the William James Educational Complex, has been permanently relocated to the Jones-Love Building at Luetta Moore Park, 585 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

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