Active voter registration rolls in Bulloch County have grown more than 10% since the November 2018 general election and a simple change to the process of obtaining a new driver’s license or renewing one is leading the surge.
In 2016, the state of Georgia’s “Motor Voter” policy made signing up to vote the default option on every driver’s license form. Everyone is registered unless they check a box to opt out of being registered to vote. Before the switch, voters had to opt in. And that change, Bulloch County Election Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones said, is the primary reason Bulloch voter rolls are up significantly.
“It's increasing because now when you go to the (Department of Driver Services), you're registered to vote automatically," Jones said. "But it's picking up, there's no doubt about that.”
As of Friday, Jones reported 42,446 people were registered in Bulloch as active voters.
That compares to 38,170 active voters for the November 2018 general election.
An additional 3,951 are registered voters, but considered inactive because they have not voted in any recent election. Inactive voters are eligible to vote just like active voters and will be placed back on the active rolls if they vote this November, according to Jones. Voters previously registered are dropped from the voter rolls if they remain inactive through two general election cycles, Jones said. Dropped voters are eligible to re-register to vote with the proper identifying credentials.
The state of Georgia also has seen a sizeable jump in voter registration since the “Motor Voter” policy was implemented. According to information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 80,000 new voters registered through the Department of Driver Services in 2015. After the switch to automatic voter registration on all license forms, 352,000 were registered in 2017 and 329,000 in 2018.
Overall, a record 7.4 million voters are now registered in Georgia, according to the secretary of state’s office.
For citizens not already registered with their current address, Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in Georgia’s Nov. 5 city elections. In Bulloch County, these will include elections in Brooklet, in Register and in three of Statesboro’s council districts.
In Statesboro, only voters in District 2, District 3 and District 5 will be able to participate in the Nov. 5 election. District 2’s contest is between incumbent City Council member Sam Jones and challenger Paulette Chavers. District 3 has incumbent Jeff Yawn and challenger Venus Mack. District 5’s race is between incumbent Derek Duke and challenger Shari Barr. Statesboro’s council members are elected by their districts only, and the other two districts and the mayor are not due for election this cycle.
However, all registered voters residing within the city limits of Brooklet and Register will be eligible to participate in their elections Nov. 5. Brooklet has a mayoral race and two contested council seats, also elected citywide. Register has two contested council seats, elected at-large.
But Portal’s election has been cancelled, since each office drew only one candidate.
The city elections are nonpartisan. In-person advanced voting will be available Oct. 14-Nov. 1, also the period when election officials can mail absentee ballots.
The Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration office is in the county annex, 113 North Main Street, Statesboro, phone (912) 764-6502.
Online voter registration is available through the state My Voter Page, mvp.sos.ga.gov, where voters can also check their registration status and address or get an absentee application form.