CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Chatham County Board of Elections Office says they’re currently counting a massive number of absentee ballots; calling it a labor intensive and methodical process that will take days.
The Board of Elections chairman released a statement Wednesday saying nearly 31,000 absentee ballots were returned, with more hand-delivered to the office up to the 7 p.m. deadline on Tuesday.
Elections officials still have dozens of sealed absentee ballots sent over by the Registrar’s Office that haven’t been opened yet.
The Board of Elections chairman says because of COVID-19 concerns, they anticipated the surge in absentee ballots, and quadrupled the staff to process those ahead of Election Day. But Chairman Patrick Mahoney says the absentee ballots that came later, all the way up to Tuesday’s 7 p.m. deadline couldn’t be processed early. So, the results that have been published so far are unofficial and will be until every last vote is counted.
“We’re counting each vote. Each and every vote will be counted, and it will be done correctly. The big difference is most of the time the in-poll votes far outweigh the absentee votes. Not this time. This time there’s so many absentee votes that are going to take that time, going to take a lot more time even with four times the labor going over it. It could change the results that were early and unofficial last night,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney estimated the number of absentee ballots was three times higher than usual. As for the problems at the polls, Mahoney pointed out they learned a lot about the new voting system on Tuesday. He says the training materials for poll workers and managers will be amended, and they’ll be looking at ways to improve that training before the General Election in November.
Republican candidate for Chatham County Commission Chair, former Tybee Island mayor, Jason Buelterman, says he feels comfortable with where his numbers currently are, and that his opponent even called to congratulate him. Now he’s setting his sights on November and weighed in on Tuesday’s election and the difficulties some of the polling locations had.
“All these absentee ballots, it was an unprecedented number of absentee ballots that were turned in. So, I think that they’re doing the best that they can. I certainly think and trust that they will learn the lessons from what happened yesterday and apply those in November, and I’m confident that in November things will be in good shape,” Buelterman said.
The Board of Elections chair says there are still boxes of sealed ballots that have yet to be opened, and those will likely take days to count. It’s a process Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis is awaiting the results of so he can find out if he’ll hold his lead over fellow Democratic candidate for Chatham County Commission Chair, Commissioner James Jones.
“Let’s count them and get the numbers right so that a person like myself, we know what my next step is. So right now what I’m doing is I’m making, putting together a temporary plan to move forward to bring Chatham County together. And we go from there,” Ellis said.
WTOC did reach out to Jones but haven’t heard back yet.