Polk County will still have two separate runoff elections despite a move by Georgia’s Secretary of State last week to combine the Dec. 1 and Jan. 5 statewide runoff elections.
Meanwhile, county elections officials were well into a hand recount of the county’s more than 17,000 ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election that was also ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Polk County Elections Director Lee Ann George said last week her office is still in charge of administering the local runoff for District 2 Polk County Commissioner between Ricky Clark and Linda Liles that is scheduled for Dec. 1.
The special election to fill the seat vacated by Jennifer Hulsey earlier this year had five candidates qualify for the Nov. 3 general election, with no one candidate getting 50% plus one of the total vote. Clark and Liles were the top two vote getters.
Raffensperger announced last week that several state and local runoff elections, including a seat on the Public Service Commission, would be rescheduled from Dec. 1 to Jan. 5 for election workers to better prepare for another wave of voters.
The races for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats are headed to a runoff scheduled for Jan. 5, but George said since the county commission winner would have to be sworn in and take office Jan. 1 they would be moving forward with the local runoff on Dec. 1.
With the county commission runoff date coming up soon, Polk County Elections Coordinator Brande Coggins advised voters who wish to vote absentee to contact the elections office at 770-749-2103 to request a ballot.
She also pointed out that if a voter is on the automatic absentee ballot distribution list that they could get the ballots for both the Dec. 1 and Jan. 5 elections at the same time and to be extra vigilant that they use the correct envelope to return their ballots for the correct election.
Early voting for the Dec. 1 runoff will only be held Nov. 23-25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the county elections office, 144 West Ave., Suite D, Cedartown.
Georgia’s Jan. 5 state and federal runoff will include both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats and the District 4 Public Service Commission seat, in which Republican incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald (I) fell about 4,000 votes shy of the 50% plus one votes needed to win outright in a race against Democrat Daniel Blackman.
Absentee ballots for the Jan. 5 runoff can be requested by contacting the Polk County Elections Office or by visiting ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov.
Advance in-person voting for the January election will be held at the elections office in Cedartown on Dec. 14-18, 21-23, and 28-31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Rockmart early voting site at the Nathan Dean Community Center at 604 Goodyear St. will be open Dec. 28-31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All Polk County polling precincts will open on both Dec. 1 and Jan. 5.
George and her staff were working to complete absentee ballot requests and plan for both runoff elections on Friday when they also began the process of recounting the county’s 17,399 votes that were cast in the presidential election as part of the statewide audit.
Raffensperger formally called for the hand recount as part of a regular audit of the election results, which were poised to be done via an electronic sampling of ballots before Raffensperger revised the process under emergency powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All 159 county elections boards in Georgia will have until Friday to count by hand every in-person, mail-in and provisional ballot cast in last week’s election.
Polk County’s election office put out a notice Friday on its Facebook page that it would be recounting the county’s votes through the first half of this week with the process expected to be completed by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18.
A recount of this magnitude has not been conducted before in Georgia and follows record turnout in the Nov. 3 general election. Raffensperger said the hand count should instill confidence in the final election results amid growing — and unproven — accusations of voter fraud.
“We understand the significance of this for not just Georgia but for every single American,” Raffensperger said. “At the end of the day, when we do a hand count, then we can answer the question of exactly what was the final margin in this race.”