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COVID-19 prompts another election day change
Absentee ballot
The Effingham County Board of Elections and Registration recently mailed 41,000 applications for an absentee ballot. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — Voters seeking “change” in 2020 are having their way thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Thursday that, pursuant to the authority vested in him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1, he is postponing the statewide general primary/presidential preference primary election until June 9. The presidential primary had already been pushed back once from its original date of March 24

Raffensperger’s latest move followed Gov. Brian Kemp’s April 8 decision to extend the current public health state of emergency until May 19. He couldn’t have changed the election date without it.

“Due to the governor’s extension of the state of emergency through a time period that includes almost every day of in-person voting for an election on May 19, and after careful consideration, I am now comfortable exercising the authority vested in me by Georgia law to postpone the primary election until June 9,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials and poll workers.”

The Effingham County Board of Elections and Registration recently mailed 41,000 applications for an absentee ballot. 

“Yes, absentee (voting) is going to be the safest option for our voters for the June 9 election,” Director of Elections and Registration Olivia Morgan said.

Morgan said Friday that more than 1,000 applications have been processed and at least that many awaited processing on Friday.

Once county election officials verify the signature on applications, voters are sent an absentee ballot.

“I anticipate we will get several more thousand over the next few weeks,” Morgan said. “Voters are really taking advantage of this option.”

Voters who opt to cast their ballots in their precinct will use new voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems. They require voters to select their choices on a touchscreen, then print out a paper ballot that’s scanned by another machine to record their votes.

“The date changes give us more time to process all the absentee ballot applications, test equipment and re-prep for the election,” Morgan said.

 The voter registration deadline for the June 9 election is May 11. Early voting will begin May 18.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-501, moving the primary election to June 9 will move the primary runoff to Aug. 11.