Chatham Co. adding Sunday early voting for U.S. Senate runoff race

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 1:34 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 4:01 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The early voting period for that runoff is shorter and earlier than it has been in past federal runoff elections in Georgia.

Counties in Georgia are required to hold early voting for the runoff from Monday, Nov. 28 to Friday, Dec. 2.

But in Chatham County, election officials are opting to also hold early voting on Sunday, Nov. 27 - which is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. There will be two locations open in Chatham County for Sunday early voting.

On the weekdays, the same five locations that were open for the general election, will be open.

State officials have decided that early voting won’t be allowed on Saturday, Nov. 26.

“I think that we have a very wide array of options, but if a voter thinks that their options have been limited, I can see where they’re coming from,” McRae said.

Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Georgia to allow early voting on Saturday. As it stands right now, early voting in Chatham County will run for six days.

The bigger worry, both election officials and voters rights activists say, is absentee voting. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 28.

Colin McRae, the chairman of the Chatham County Board of Registrars, says absentee ballots have to be received - that means in the hands of election officials, not just postmarked - by mail or drop-off, by 7 p.m. on Election Day, which is Dec. 6.

“You should take that into account when you’re deciding whether or not to drop it off in person versus put it in the mail. We all have horror stories about how long the mail can take at times, so don’t wait until a day or two before Election Day to put it in the mail. If you’re down to a couple of days beforehand, I would not rely on that to get it to us in time,” McRae said.

Which is why election officials are encouraging voters to make a plan to get to the polls, in person, if possible.

“If you have kids home from college, have them vote on that Sunday when they’re home for Thanksgiving. Have them vote on that Sunday before you put them on the plane to go home. Go after church and vote on Sunday, because absentee ballots are really a problem for this short time frame,” League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia President Nina Altschiller said.

Alan Mainor, with the New Georgia Project, is a driver with the Rides to the Polls program and he says they’ll be ready to pick people up any day the polls are open.

“We’re here for everyone. The least, the lost, and left behind. So, we’re trying to reach those who are in the community that can’t make their way to the polls. So, we’re here for early voting. On the 27th, we’re here. On December the 6th, we’re there,” Mainor said.

And they’ll be there, Mainor says, if Saturday voting ends up being allowed.

McRae says that Chatham County election officials are ready for that, as well.

“We have the equipment lined up, we have the personnel lined up to hit the ground running if we do find out between now and the 25th that we are permitted to do it on Saturday. So, we will be able to move forward if there is a ruling in favor of the Warnock campaign allowing Saturday voting,” McRae said.

There are three absentee dropbox locations in Chatham County during early voting: the main voter registration office, at the Mosquito Control building, and the Islands Library. You can only access the drop-boxes during early voting hours.

On Election Day, you need to deliver your absentee ballot in person to the Voter Registration Office.

*(Chatham County Board of Registrars)