This Saturday, Oct. 16, is the first of two Saturdays for in-person early voting in the Nov. 2 city elections across Georgia, including elections for Statesboro, Brooklet, Portal and Register in Bulloch County.
Early voting locations open one hour later on these Saturdays than they do Monday through Friday. The Saturday voting hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Oct. 16 and again next Saturday, Oct. 23.
“We’ll be conducting early voting here at our office, and it’s the only location (for Statesboro Portal and Register, but not Brooklet) Saturday from 9 till 5,” said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.
The Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration, 113 N. Main St.; Suite 201, Statesboro, handles elections for the cities of Statesboro, Portal and Register under contract. So Portal and Register resident voters also have to come to Statesboro, to the elections office area at the county’s North Main Annex, to vote early in-person in their municipal elections.
Touchscreen machines with ballot printers and scanners, the new ones used for last year’s state and county elections, are set up for this purpose.
But Brooklet handles its own elections. So Brooklet City Hall, 104 Church St., Brooklet, is hosting early voting, or in Brooklet’s case “in-person absentee voting” because paper absentee ballots are used, and will be open for Brooklet registered voters to vote in their city election both Saturdays, Oct. 16 and Oct. 23.
Both locations will also be open for voting 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 18-22 and Oct. 25-29.
3 days, 170 voters
In-person early voting commenced at 8 a.m. last Tuesday, and 167 Statesboro residents had voted that way in the first three days, through Thursday, Jones reported. Meanwhile, just two Register residents and one Portal resident had come in to cast early ballots in their separate city elections.
“We’re hoping to have a bigger crowd,” she said.
But one thing Jones wants voters to understand is, these are city elections, open to registered voters who live inside the city limits of Statesboro, Portal, Register, or – in the case of the voting handled separately at Brooklet City Hall – Brooklet. With the Bulloch County elections office handling early voting for Statesboro, Brooklet and Register, residents of the county’s unincorporated area sometimes come in wanting to vote, but they’re not eligible.
Mailed ballot deadline Friday
Another thing to be aware of, for voters who want an absentee ballot mailed to them, is that Georgia Senate Bill 202, enacted this year, sets a deadline for election officials to mail out absentee ballots that is a full week earlier than in past elections. This time, the deadline is Friday, Oct. 22, so voters need to file their absentee ballot requests in time for that day’s mailing.
After voters receive an absentee ballot and complete it, it will be counted if returned to the appropriate local election office before 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 2.
Incidentally, not many absentee ballot requests have come in so far. Jones’ office had received requests for and issued 33 absentee ballots to Statesboro voters and none to Portal or Register voters as of noon Friday.
Drop box limits
Georgia’s new election law also severely restricts the use of drop boxes for collecting absentee ballots after the use of these was greatly expanded for the 2020 elections. The law now forbids outdoor ballot drop boxes entirely, after last year’s were bolted to the ground and video-monitored.
Now, the Bulloch County Board of Elections has drop boxes provided inside its office area at the North Main Annex for Statesboro, Portal and Register voters. But the law even restricts those to the same hours and days as in-person early voting, which ends at 5 p.m. Oct. 29.
“When we stop early voting, the drop box won’t be available,” Jones said.
So voters who want to return an absentee ballot on Monday, Nov. 1, or Tuesday, Nov. 2, will need to bring it to a staff member inside the elections office during open hours, which on Election Day, Nov. 2, will extend until the 7 p.m. deadline, she said.
Jones also cautions voters that a drop box maintained outside the annex building by the Tax Commissioner’s Office is for tag and tax purposes and not for absentee ballots.
Election Day voting
Eligible voters who don’t vote early or absentee can vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 at their assigned city precincts: Register Baptist Church for Register’s resident voters; Aaron Worship Center for Portal’s voters; the Brooklet Recreation Building for Brooklet voters; the William James Educational Complex for Statesboro Council Districts 1 and 2 voters and Pittman Park United Methodist Church for Statesboro Council Districts 3, 4 and 5 voters.