Early voting turnout records set in Towns County

Community, News
early voting line at Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Four days into the early voting process for the 2020 General Election and Towns County elections officials report record turnout.

As of 1 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 1,583 Towns registered voters had cast their ballots. This number does not include absentee ballots. Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva stated hundreds of voters visited the civic center all week to exercise their civic duty.

The total number of ballots cast in Georgia as of October 16 at noon is 1,217,277. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, early voting is up 62 percent, and accepted absentee ballots are up 732 percent compared to the 2016 early voting numbers. These statistics measure against the first four voting days.

Earlier in the week, the state-run election net ran slowly throughout Georgia due to the record turnout statewide. As a result, voters had to wait from 45 minutes to an hour, but Towns Board of Elections and Registration and the Secretary of State implemented measures to speed up the process.

Towns began checking people in the “old fashioned way,” in other words, using the paper rolls instead of relying on the Election Net system. The Secretary of State’s office also overhauled the Election Net database to perform more efficiently, and now it’s quickly processing voter information.

The manual or paper method is a state-recommended procedure to keep lines moving if the Election Net system isn’t working correctly. Each county in Georgia receives paper rolls from the Secretary of State right before every election in case of a technology mishap.

The first half of the sample ballot

Wait times after the improvements became 30 minutes or less.

One voter in line said that Friday’s voting line was the shortest it had been all week. When Fetch Your News was there, around eight people were waiting in line. However, it continued to move quickly.

Another woman voter added that she didn’t expect to wait in line, but it was a “beautiful day” and felt that it was essential to “get [her] vote in.”

Some voters felt like the enormous early turnout resulted from COVID-19 and the importance of the presidential election. Many people want to ensure they can safely vote and voice their opinions. 

Some registered voters who requested absentee ballots are showing up to early vote instead. These individuals must sign a piece of paper voiding their absentee ballots to prevent any double voting.

Early voting will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until October 30 at the civic center. The one day of Saturday voting is October 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots can be requested until October 30 and must be received by the local election’s office by 7 p.m. on November 3. Voters can track their absentee ballot at https://georgia.ballottrax.net/voter/.

The second half of the sample ballot.

Additionally, the local Republican and Democrat parties are doing their best to get out the vote. Representatives from both parties have lined up along the town square and are encouraging people to vote for their respective candidates.

According to those in attendance, everyone has been respectful. The groups plan to be out in full force until November 3. A former law enforcement officer told FYN at the end of the election season, Democrats and Republicans are still friends.

Important election dates and sample ballot for Towns County

Community, Election, News
Towns County election sample ballot

HIAWASSEE, Ga – The 2020 General Election is on November 3, and early voting begins on October 12. For anyone interested, please review the official sample ballot below.

Races include President, both United States Senate Seats, House of Representatives District Nine, Public Service Commissioner, State Senator District 50, General Assembly District Eight, Probate Court Judge, Clerk of Superior Court, Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, Coroner, County Commissioner, and Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.

Two state constitutional amendments are on the ballot. House Resolution 164 Act No. 597 authorizes the dedication of fees and taxes to their intended purposes by general state law. In other words, if a tax is intended to assist with garbage clean up, then this amendment would ensure the money went toward that purpose. House Resolution 1023 Act No.596 waives state and local sovereign immunity for violation of state laws, state, and federal constitutions. It would allow Georgia citizens to petition the superior court for relief for acts outside the lawful authority scope.

A statewide referendum, House Bill 344 Act No. 149, would except all real estate owned by a purely public charity from the ad valorem tax if the charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code.

Sample Ballot part 1

Towns County residents can already request an absentee ballot for the election and are highly encouraged to mail it back in as soon as possible.

Early voting will run from October 12 to 30 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Board of Elections office. It will be open through lunch each day as well. Additionally, Saturday voting will take place on October 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All COVID-19 precautions will be in place, and they recommend the public wear masks, but they aren’t required. The elections officials will have PPE on-hand, hand sanitizer and masks.

On election day, all three precincts in Towns County will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If anyone is interested in being a poll worker, training will occur on Saturday, October 10, at the Civic Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please arrive a little early, so elections officials can adequately set up the training room.

Sample Ballot 2

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Early voting adjusts to social distancing guidelines

Election, News
early voting

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County voters started casting their ballots on May 18 when early voting opened and noticed all the precautions in place to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stressed the importance of early voting, “I want to brag on our elections board. They’ve done a great job preparing for social separation…I do want you to get out and vote and early vote if possible that way on June the 9, maybe it won’t be too crowded.”

The Towns County Board of Elections and Registration instated a number of safety measures, including poll workers wearing masks and gloves, plexiglass separation, and limiting the number of people allowed in the lobby.

Also, they also spaced voting booths further apart to follow social distancing guidelines. Consequently, the extra space added additional voting privacy, which has been a concern in metro counties. Some voters claimed that the new system made it too easy for others to see who they voted for. 

Poll workers are wearing masks and gloves.

Early voting will last until June 5 with Saturday voting on May 30. The elections building opens at 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. until the cut-off date.

The Board of Elections installed an absentee ballot box outside the building for those choosing to go that route. Earlier in the year, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mass-mailed absentee applications to Georgians before moving the election date to June 9.

Almost 1.5 million Georgians have submitted a request for absentee ballots for the upcoming election with over 1 million absentee ballots already sent out to Georgia voters. The states already received 400,000 absentee ballots. 

Those who first applied for an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in-person must sign an affidavit to cancel their absentee ballot.

The Board of Elections and Registration Building and adjacent civic center will also serve as the central polling location in the county on June 9. All other polling locations will be closed because of COVID-19.

According to the Towns County GOP, “Due to a state of emergency and unavoidable circumstances that exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and the adjacent civic center shall serve as the single polling place for the June 09, 2020, primary and special election. This space is designated as it meets all requirements under State Election Board (SEB) rules and state law and requirements and accommodations for disabled electors; can be staffed by the current number of poll workers available; and can also be configured to meet the safety and social distancing protocols established for this election (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-265(a)(c)(d)(f)).”

Several races local races will be decided in the June 9 primary.

Towns County Sheriff

Jim Couch (R)

Linda Curtis (R)

Kenneth Henderson (R)

Lisa Joseph (R)

Darren Osborn (R)

Towns County Coroner

Tamela Cooper (R)

Harold Copeland (R)

Board of Education, Post 5

Steven Green (Non-partisan)

Caroleen Woods (Non-partisan)

State races on the ballot are

Georgia House of Representatives, District 8 

Stan Gunter (R)

Steve Townsend (R)

Dale Cooper (D)

Georgia Senate, District 50

Andy Garrison (R)

Dan Gasaway (R)

Stacy Hall (R)

Bo Hatchett (R)

Tricia Hise (R)

Lee Moore (R)

Dee Daley (D)

Voters can expect to see more local races on the ballot, but these candidates face no competition.

SPLOST will also be up for renewal, which will keep the taxes at 7 percent. The money will be used to renovate the courthouse.

The Freeport Tax is also on the ballot. It’s a tax exemption for manufacturers of raw materials in the area. Bradshaw hopes it will create jobs in Towns County.

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