Early voting began Tuesday in the July 26 runoff. It features nonpartisan races for Bulloch County Probate Court judge and an Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court judgeship, plus - in District 2 only - a Republican race for Bulloch County Board of Commissioners.
In-person early voting will be available from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, until July 22. For the runoff, there will be no Saturday voting and no second early voting location. The one place to vote early is in the Board of Elections and Registration area of the County Annex at 113 N. Main St.
Tuesday, 96 voters cast ballots there.
"It's a very surprising start," said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones, who wasn't expecting that many first-day voters.
Back on May 2, the first day of early voting for the May primary, 171 Bulloch County voters participated. When the votes were counted May 24, the total turnout, including early, absentee and election-day ballots, was 32.7 percent of active, registered voters. That was with the sheriff's race, the second installment of which doesn't appear in the runoff but will be in the Nov. 8 general election.
Jones isn't revising her projection for turnout of about 10 percent in the runoff yet but has said she hopes voters come out to prove her wrong.
Countywide and District 2
In the runoff, all Bulloch County voters can choose between candidates on the nonpartisan ballot. The runoff between lawyers Martha Hall and Michael Muldrew for the multicounty Superior Court seat being vacated by retiring Judge John R. "Robbie" Turner is on this ballot. So is the runoff between lawyer Charlie Aaron and law office manager and paralegal Lorna DeLoach to succeed retiring Bulloch County Probate Judge Lee DeLoach.
Commission District 2, which includes roughly half of the county's population, has a runoff between Curt Deal and Jimmy Hayes for Seat 2A, being vacated by Commissioner Carolyn Ethridge. But to vote in this race, voters must choose the Republican Party ballot, and not everyone in District 2 is eligible, as Jones explained.
"The only ones that can vote Republican are those in county commission District 2 that voted Republican in May or that did not vote in May or voted nonpartisan in May," she said.
In other words, people who voted the Democratic Party ballot in the May 24 primary are ineligible to vote Republican in the runoff. This form of crossover voting is prohibited because the runoff is considered an extension of the party primary. But Georgia does not have registration by party membership, so all other District 2 voters can still participate in the commission runoff.
Those District 2 residents who voted Democrat can still vote in the judge races on the nonpartisan ballot, which also will be included with the Republican ballots. District 1 voters will get nonpartisan ballots automatically.
ID and rules
Voters need to bring a Georgia driver's license or other valid photo identification. Other accepted photo ID cards include those issued by the government of Georgia or another state or by a municipality, a county or for a federally recognized tribe, as well as U.S. passports and military and federal IDs.
Jones reminds voters, candidates and their supporters that the state law prohibiting campaigning or bringing campaign materials within 150 feet of a polling place also applies during early voting.
Applications for absentee ballots, to be mailed out now through Friday, July 22, are also available at the voting office. They can be mailed to the voter's address of registration in Bulloch County or to an address outside the county for people who will be temporarily away. Absentee ballots will be counted if received by the close of voting, 7 p.m. on election day, July 26. But in-person early voting closes at 5 p.m. Friday, July 22.
All Bulloch County precincts will be open for voting 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 26.
Voters can also check their registration status and find an absentee ballot application at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.