Bulloch County officials aren’t adding Saturday voting in the current runoff between Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, after a judge’s ruling allows counties — at least for now — to add voting next Saturday by local decision.
Last Friday’s ruling by a Fulton County Superior Court judge is being appealed by the state.
But earlier last week, the Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration and staff instead extended advanced voting by a half hour, to 5:30 p.m., each of the five allowed weekdays, Monday–Friday, Nov. 28–Dec. 2.
Adding Saturday now would become practicably impossible, especially since Bulloch County’s election office as of late Monday morning had not received its “project,” the software package needed to load the ballots onto the voting machines, said county Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.
The judge’s ruling meant “that the Secretary of State’s Office couldn’t prohibit us from having Saturday voting after Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t requiring us to do so,” Jones noted.
“Our biggest thing is, we still don’t have our project yet to be able to upload and reprogram and test equipment, so our Saturday may be spent doing (logic and accuracy) testing, after Thanksgiving, just to be ready for early voting that Monday (Nov. 28),” she said.
For that testing, a legal requirement before each election, the digital voting machines must be operated with the actual ballots onboard. She hoped to receive the ballot software package later Monday, Nov. 21.
So the in-person early voting opportunity for Bulloch County’s registered voters remains 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Nov. 28–Dec. 2. The one location will be the elections office area in the County Annex, 113 North Main St., Statesboro.
Meanwhile, the deadline for voters to request that paper absentee ballots be mailed to them is Monday, Nov. 28. The State Election Board extended that deadline from Friday because of the holiday.
“We did get the (absentee) ballots in, and we have started mailing those out,” Jones said. “I think we may have about a thousand requests to process, so hopefully people should start getting those ballots in the mailboxes soon, be able to vote those and I would say return them as quickly as possible.”
Valid absentee ballots must be counted if returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. Dec. 6, Election Day.
Bulloch County’s 16 traditional precincts will be open for voting in the runoff that day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Current Georgia law, which required two voting Saturdays prior to the general election, would usually allow Saturday voting in a runoff by local decision. But the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office cited a portion of the law that prohibits early voting on a holiday or the day after.
Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the day after is also a holiday for state employees.
After Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stated that this ruled out Nov. 26 for Saturday voting, Warnock’s campaign, the Georgia Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court. Judge Thomas Cox issued the ruling Friday allowing early voting, but the state government filed notice Monday of an appeal.