Voting while social distancing starts Monday, with the first day of in-person early voting for Georgia’s primary on June 9.
Bulloch County Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones said voting will be available in the County Annex building only, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, until Friday, June 5. Saturday voting will be available on May 30 only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“In trying to keep our voters, poll workers, and election staff safe, we are encouraging everyone to vote by mail,” Jones said. “With the social distancing and the limited number of voting equipment due to spacing, voters may be waiting. This new voting equipment only shows one office at a time per page and not multiple offices like the old (voting machines) did.”
Jones said voters will stand at least 6 feet apart, and she encourages all to wear masks and gloves, but they are not required. She said only three voting machines will be open due to the social distancing requirements, and that may add to the waiting time.
More than 1.3 million voters have requested absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, but state law requires three weeks of in-person early voting before the June 9 election.
In Bulloch County, Jones said her office had received 9,254 requests as of Friday from registered Bulloch voters for mail-in ballots to participate in the June 9 primary. She said that 2,764 filled-in ballots have been returned and entered as received. Jones said June 5 is the last day a requested absentee ballot can be mailed to a voter.
When Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger postponed the primary elections because of the virus outbreak, the state encouraged people to vote by mail. Election officials mailed a form in late March to be used to request an absentee ballot to all 6.9 million active registered voters in Georgia.
In the last statewide general primary in a presidential election year, a total of about 37,200 absentee ballots were cast. In that May 2016 primary election, 270 Bulloch residents cast mail-in ballots, according to data provided by Jones.
Voters can return the ballot application by mail and then return their filled-in ballots by mail or in a specially established absentee ballot drop box to avoid an in-person trip to the polls and potential exposure to the virus.
Jones said Bulloch voters who have not mailed or dropped off their mail-in ballot request can drop off their request in a box that’s located inside the elections office at the County Annex, 113 N. Main St.
If someone has not yet received an absentee ballot application, Jones said to go to www.mvp.sos.ga.gov and download the form. They then can mail, email or drop off the application at the Bulloch elections office.
She said voters who have requested and received absentee ballots in the mail, but would prefer to vote in person may do so, if they have not sent in or dropped off their absentee ballots.
For the upcoming primary, the absentee ballot applications require checking a box to select either the Democratic or Republican ballot.
Voters who instead check “nonpartisan” will receive only a nonpartisan ballot, which would contain a Board of Education race if a voter lives in a district that has one, but not much else locally. However, the State Senate race in District 4 to replace the late Jack Hill will appear on both the Republican ballot and the non-partisan ballot.
Candidates for other offices from county commission, sheriff and State Court solicitor-general up to U.S. senator and president appear on either the Republican ballot or the Democratic ballot, and a nonpartisan general election ballot will be included with either party’s primary ballot.
A sample ballot is available at the elections office and also online at https://bullochcounty.net/elections/2020-election/.
If a runoff election is needed in any race, it would be held Aug. 11.
Herald reporter Al Hackle contributed to this report. Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.