Chatham Co. Board of Elections reports more absentee ballots, slow day for in-person voting

Chatham Co. Board of Elections reports more absentee ballots, slow day for in-person voting
COVID-19 safety precautions were in place as Chatham County residents voted Tuesday. (Source: WTOC)

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia’s primary runoff election took place Tuesday.

The Chatham County Board of Elections says staff members worked hard to make Tuesday‘s voting process better than the June 9 primary when voters complained about delayed start times and long lines.

During stops at two Chatham County polling locations Tuesday, WTOC saw maybe two voters. The Board of Elections Chairman, Thomas Mahoney said they did have more absentee ballots than normal. Voters had the chance to fill out their ballot and mail it in or drop it off at their secure box.

Election officials say they have caught up and processed all the ballots they got prior to Tuesday but must wait to tabulate the results once the polls close.

Poll mangers at two locations say it was a slow day for in-person voting. They also said there were no issues at either Light Church or the JEA.

Mahoney said Tuesday has run much smoother than June. He said there are several reasons for the low turnout the county saw so far.

“I think generally there’s more interest in the elections, but the sad problem is that in a runoff you typically have fewer people turnout and also in August you have fewer people turnout and then you know the other thing that we’ve talked about is that the republicans won’t be going to the polls at all,” Mahoney said.

Chairman Mahoney says they have seen a lot more absentee ballots as they expected due to COVID-19.

“We’ve gotten thousands more than typical in a runoff election like this, but we don’t have the volume that we had in June and we don’t have the volume that we expect in November so it’s more manageable. we have gone ahead taken advantage of being able to process those early, we haven’t tabulated any of the votes were not allowed to until after polls close.”

Chatham Co. Board of Elections reports more absentee ballots, slow day for in-person voting

Savannah Civic Center used as polling location, COVID-19 testing not held Tuesday

Normally during the week, the Savannah Civic Center is set up as the Chatham County Health Department's COVID-19 testing site, but Tuesday it was a polling location.

Poll workers were behind barriers, wearing masks, and sanitizing equipment after voters use them. Masks were not required at polling sites but the manager at the Civic Center says most voters who came inside wore them.

She also says setting up the voting machines and other equipment was much easier this time around compared to the primary in June.

“We were more familiar with the machines. We had been trained to use them, when before it was like feeling our way through. This time we knew what we were doing,” Precinct 8-1 Savannah Civic Center Poll Manager Shirley Stinson said.

The poll manager also said there weren’t any issues at the Civic Center.

However, there was one issue Chatham County resident Shirley James didn’t see coming.

She was told the day before election day her and her husband’s votes may not be counted. She says she received an affidavit form in the mail Monday from the Board of Registrar’s office.

James had voted absentee before and turned her ballot in on time. She went to the Board of Registrar’s Office to fix the problem. There, she found out, she was flagged by mistake.

“I asked that if they would at least check it out for me and luckily the young man who was there he did check it for me and he actually told me that we should not have been flagged,” said James.

The affidavit form also says a completed affidavit and copy of identification must be returned to the registrar’s office within three days after the election.

Even though the office acknowledged the mistake, she’s concerned about voters who may not be able to fix a problem like this in time.

“That’s what concerns me. Is that with this process and with it happening so late, that the vote might not be counted so the other thing is to caution everyone to make sure to submit the absentee ballot on time, which we did and still got this letter.”

James says she wants voters to be vigilant because their vote matters. She says she is currently making plans to either vote in person or absentee for the general election in November.

She also says she wants the Board of Registrar’s Office to improve the way they notify voters about important messages they receive in the mail. James says it should be marked in some way that notifies the voter that this important and time sensitive. Her notice was in a regular envelope without any markings.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.