The COVID-19 pandemic required primaries in Georgia to be pushed back from March and May to a combined date coming up on June 9, and now voters are finally able to get back to the polls and cast their ballots for Presidential, state and local offices.
Officials are ready to open back up for business starting on May 18 to allow voters to return to take part in the combined primaries at the Board of Elections office in Cedartown for the next three weeks, and open up the Rockmart precinct for the final week ahead of the June 9 primary day.
When the primary was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Polk County had already recorded 980 ballots between the Cedartown and Rockmart precincts in the presidential primary. Those who have already voted will have those ballots counted already, and will only have to vote in state and local primaries on GOP or Democratic ballots.
The Cedartown precinct at the Board of Elections office reported 620 early voters at the time in March, and Rockmart had 360 ballots cast.
Voters are still being asked to consider going ahead using an absentee ballot for the 2020 primaries, but should they want to come vote in person they’ll have the option — with social distancing requirements in place.
Those who come to the Board of Elections office will have to wait in line with six feet of distance between each person, with a limit of 18 people in line or voting at any given time. Elections Coordinator Brande Coggins said voters will be directed toward the office, and that only half of the voting machines will be in use to keep up with distancing requirements as well.
“We’ll also be sanitizing the machines after each use to ensure that we’re keeping voters safe,” Coggins said. “We’re also currently planning on having people exit through the side door of the building so they won’t have to backtrack to the front.”
Procedures to keep people coming into the Board of Elections office safe will be followed when the Rockmart precinct opens as well.
Three weeks of advanced voting starts at the Board of Elections office on May 18 through May 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and continuing on that schedule following Memorial Day on May 26 through May 29, and a Saturday voting opportunity on May 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours for June 1, 3 and 5 will continue with a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, but extended hours are planned for June 2 and 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Rockmart’s precinct at the Nathan Dean Community Center will only be open for a week of in-person advanced voting starting on June 1 and continuing through June 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and shortened hours on Friday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Absentee ballots can still be obtained by calling the office at 770-749-2103, and will be available for voters to have mailed to the house for the next several weeks. All absentee ballots must be returned by the Primary day on June 9.
Coggins added that those who change their mind and don’t want to vote by mail but received a ballot to fill out and return can still come to a precinct and turn in their paper ballot, so long as it hasn’t been marked in any way or sealed in the envelope to return it. She said voters will still have to sign an affidavit reporting they have not marked the absentee ballot they turned back in to be eligible to vote in person instead.