The Polk County Office of Elections and Registration has moved forward with a new way to try and cut down on wait times at the polls while also helping those with absentee ballots.
Director Lee Ann George told the board of elections last week that they will provide a way for anyone who receives an absentee ballot to bring it with them to their polling place on Nov. 3 and have the option to fill it out and place it in a secure drop box, or have it officially canceled by a poll worker and vote in person on one of the voting machines.
Taking absentee ballots at polling places is generally not done during an election. However, with a projected record turnout, a number of high-profile races on the ballot, and the increased number of absentee ballot requests in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, George said they are doing all they can to alleviate any problems.
“We are coming up with as many scenarios as we can to be prepared and make election day go faster,” she said. “Our main goal is to make sure the voter has a good experience and see that we are trying to make sure their vote is counted by whatever means possible.”
George said they hope giving people the option to fill out their absentee ballot at a polling place instead of having them wait to have it canceled and then get in line and wait to vote in person will cut down on long lines.
Brande Coggins, Polk County’s election coordinator, said while they are focusing on issues with people trying to vote twice or not being able to turn in their absentee ballot prior to 7 p.m. on election day, they also are trying to cut down on the number of in-person voters if they can.
“It’s the volume,” Coggins said.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reports that Georgia had 7,587,625 registered voters as of Oct. 6, a day after the deadline to register and be able to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
That is a new record high and only confirms what Coggins has seen locally as Polk County now has more than 25,000 registered voters, up from just under 23,000 at the beginning of the year. Coggins said the Secretary of State’s office has projected a 60-70% voter turnout statewide for the Nov. 3 election, which roughly translates to anywhere between 14,000-16,000 voters for Polk County.
George and her staff continue to encourage voters to vote absentee or vote early in order to cut down on wait times at the polls on election day. As of last Thursday, the Polk County Elections Office had processed 3,536 absentee ballot requests and had received more than 1,500.
Ballots can be either mailed to the Polk County Elections Office, hand delivered to the office during normal business hours or put into the drop box next to the front door of the Polk County Annex Building in Cedartown, which is under 24-hour surveillance and checked twice a day, Monday through Friday.
Ballots must be received by the elections office no later than 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Early voting began Monday at both the Polk County Annex Building at 144 West. Ave. in Cedartown and the Nathan Dean Community Center at 604 Goodyear St. in Rockmart.
Early voting continues through Oct. 30, with the two polling sites open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for Oct. 27 and 29, when they are scheduled to be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early voting will also be available in Polk County on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
George said an emphasis will be placed on campaigning and campaign paraphernalia in or around polling places this year.
Georgia law states a person cannot wear any campaign gear supporting a specific candidate within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building where a polling place is established, nor within any polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.
This includes hats, shirts, pins, facemasks and other items.
As always, signs listing the code number and restrictions will be posted at every polling location.