At of the end of the day on Monday, Oconee County’s Elections and Registration Office had received and processed 6,064 absentee ballot requests from the county’s 31,278 registered voters.
The Secretary of State Office has hired a vender who is mailing out the ballots, and that process is underway.
In fact, by the end of the day on Monday, 1,076 of the county’s voters already had returned a ballot–completing their voting process for the Nov. 3 election.
Those voters, and others who cast their ballots absentee, will be prevented from voting a second time–either intentionally or by mistake--through a process of checks that are in place, according to Fran Leathers, director of Elections and Registration for the county.
Leathers participated in a virtual question and answer session earlier in the month and responded to questions about a variety of election issues, including double voting.
Leathers explained how someone who has asked for and received an absentee ballot can cancel that ballot and vote in person either when early voting starts on Oct. 12 or on election day itself on Nov. 3.
During the hour-long virtual session, Leathers gave an overview of polling procedures and a preview of the vote tallying process.
She assured those participating in the virtual session that Oconee County voters at least will know the outcome of voting in the county several hours after polls close at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Leathers’ session on Sept. 10 was organized by the Oconee County Democratic Committee, but it was nonpartisan and open to the public. I counted 25 people on the Zoom session about half way through.
Leathers outlined the work of her office in response to questions submitted in advance before responding a question from the audience on double voting. She said she had intended to address that issue even before being asked.
“This is something that is a hot topic right now,” she said. “It’s on the news. Everybody is talking about double voting and how that happens. The President mentioned something about getting your absentee ballot and going voting in person,” she said.
Leathers said people who have requested an absentee ballot and decide they want to vote in person “can certainly do that.” They can come to her office in advance, or they can show up at the polling location, and make the request.
She said her office has a process for handling these requests “and that to me is the best way that I know how to prevent anyone from accidentally being able to vote twice. I’d like to believe that no one would try do that on purpose, since it is a felony.”
Someone who has requested an absentee ballot but wants to vote in person can bring the ballot with her or him, but that isn’t required, Leathers said. If the ballot has been completed, she said, the staff will take it and never open it. It is held by the Oconee County Clerk of Courts “for its lifetime,” Leathers said.
The staff or poll worker then looks up the person’s name in the voter registration system and sees that the person has been issued an absentee ballot.
The voters then signs an affidavit saying she or he does not want that absentee ballot to count.
A voters cannot cancel an absentee ballot that has already been submitted and accepted by the elections office, Leathers said.
If someone mails in an absentee ballot and then shows up to vote at the polls, the poll worker will see in the voter registration database that the person has been issued an absentee ballot and will not allow the person to vote unless the absentee ballot is cancelled.
“The system won’t let you create a card for someone at the precinct if it has AB by your name,” Leathers said. AB is for absentee ballot.
If someone shows up and votes and then also sends in the absentee ballot, the absentee ballot will not be accepted, Leathers said.
Voters can check on the status of their absentee ballot requests by going to their My Voter Page on the Secretary of State web site, Leathers said.
After the Sept. 10 session, the Secretary of State also set up a new absentee ballot tracking system called BallotTrax that will send either email or text message alerts to voters on the status of their ballots.
Early voting will be at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing, where 16 voting machines will be located, Leathers said.
Early voting will be from Oct. 12 to Oct. 30.
Monday through Thursday, voting will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Fridays, it will be from 8 am. To 7 p.m.
Saturday voting will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 24.
The secure Drop Box in front of the Office of Elections and Registration, 10 Court Street, across from the Courthouse in Watkinsville, is now open and can be used for both absentee ballot applications and completed ballots, Leathers said.
The box is cleared at least twice a day, she added.
Leathers said she has participated in a state conference call with representatives of the Post Office and “They are bending over backwards to try to help us with all of our ballots and the delivery.”
The last day to issue absentee ballots is October 30.
Signatures on absentee ballots are carefully checked against signatures on file with voter registration documents to avoid fraud, Leathers said.
The voter registration deadline is October 5.
Leathers said her office has been inundated with poll workers applications. “We’re really excited about that,” she said.
Poll workers will have a paper backup of the voters registration list at the polling place to be used if the electronic Poll Pad fails, Leathers said.
Absentee ballots received before election day will be scanned, starting on Oct. 19, but they will not be tabulated, Leathers said.
The voter database will show that a vote has been received for the individual voters who submitted the ballots, and the ballots will be stored in a secure room at her office, she explained.
At present, based on a court decision, Leather said she is planning to count absentee ballots postmarked on Nov. 3 and received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.
“For Oconee County, we will know locally who won” on election evening, Leathers said. She said she didn’t expect any ballots arriving after the election would change local results.
“I would be willing to say that Oconee County would know for sure our local elections,” she said.
I recorded Leathers’ question and answer session Sept. 10 via screen capture software, so what is recorded below is what crossed my screen as the session progressed.
Leathers began addressing double voting at 17:54 in the video.