Saturday, March 05, 2022

Early Voting Moves Back To Oconee County Elections Office Because Of Scheduling Conflict At Civic Center

***Precinct Consolidation Now Final***

Early voting for the May 24 primary will be held at the Oconee County Office of Elections and Registration, opposite the Courthouse in Watkinsville, rather than at the Civic Center, where early voting for county elections has been held since November of 2020.

Early voting for the June 21 runoff, if needed, also will be at the Elections and Registration Office, but early voting for the Nov. 8 elections will return to the Civic Center.

Qualifying for Posts 2 and 3 on the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, also at the Elections and Registration Office.

Voting on election day will be held at the county’s eight precincts, rather than 12, because consolidation of four precincts became official on Jan. 31.

All voters will be getting a new precinct card in the mail shortly listing voting location and, for those who switched Georgia House districts, a notice of that change.

Voters in the old Antioch and the old East Oconee precincts will receive a second mailing telling them of their new voting locations. Antioch voters will be voting at Poplar Springs Baptist Church and East Oconee voters will be voting at the Civic Center.

Rebecca Anglin, the county’s Director of Elections and Registration for the county, spelled out these plans and changes at the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration.

Early Voting

Advance or early voting will be May 2 through May 20, excepting Sundays May 8 and 15.

Anglin At Election Board Meeting 3/1/2022

Voting will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays May 7 and 14.

Anglin told the Board that efforts to find a suitable alternative to the Civic Center for early voting had failed, necessitating the return to the Office of Elections and Registration, 10 Court Street, across the street from the Courthouse.

The Board had voted in August of 2020 to move early voting to the Civic Center from the Elections and Registration Office to accommodate the new voting equipment and increased demand for early voting.

Anglin said she hopes to be able to have 14 voting machines operating in the meeting room at the Elections and Registration Office and has purchased booths that will allow two machines to be operating back-to-back in the office.

“We’re going to see how that works,” Anglin said. “I’m not promising 14, but that’s the goal,” she said.

Anglin said county facility staff still needed to check to determine if the electrical system in the room can handle that many machines.

Conflict At Civic Center

Anglin told the Board at its meeting in early December that a scheduling conflict had made the Civic Center unavailable for early voting.

Anglin said after the meeting that she was looking for alternative sites as well as exploring whether the Civic Center schedule could be changed to allow for early voting.

The county jointly operates the Civic Center with Oconee County Schools, and Justin Kirouac, county administrator, said in an email message in January that “There's both school and non-school events scheduled” for the time of early voting.

Anglin told me in an email message on Friday that “We explored several options” for early voting, including at Oconee Veterans Park, west of the Civic Center on Hog Mountain Road.

“The rooms they had available could not hold the electrical capacity needed for our equipment,” she said of the park facilities. “This was the case at a few other spaces we looked at as well.”

Anglin said the county considered renting a vacant office building.

“After several meetings, we all agreed that if it could not be in a county building, it needed to be in our office,” she said.

Future Solution

“All of this will be resolved once we're in the Administrative Building. Thankfully!’ Anglin wrote in her email message.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Anglin said that the new Administrative Building now being designed for property the county has purchased at the intersection of the U.S. 441 Bypass and North Main Street will have space available for her Office and for early voting.

Anglin said that groundbreaking is expected for June of this year, and the move-in date is expected to be June of 2023.

The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to sell the current Elections and Registration Office pending agreement on terms on leasing the property until that move is completed.

The county released schematics for the new administrative building at its Feb. 1 meeting.

Precinct Consolidation

The Elections Board voted in late December to move forward with consolidation of East Oconee and Civic Center precincts, the Antioch and Colham Ferry precincts, the Farmington and Bishop precincts, and the North High Shoals and North Oconee precincts.

New Precinct Map Effective 1/31/2022

The Board was required to put notices of the consolidations in the county’s legal publication, The Oconee Enterprise, before the consolidation could be final.

Voters had until Jan. 31 to object.

Anglin told the Board on Tuesday that “We did have a few individuals and parties call the office” regarding the consolidation of precincts.

The county has struggled to find space where it can operate its new voting equipment.

“We discussed things with them and everybody seemed to be in favor of it,” she said. “They understood the reasoning.”

“We did not have any opposition that was received in our office,” she said. “So everything went into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 31, to consolidate.”

“So everything is good,” she said. “We’re down to eight precincts now.”

Notification To Voters

As a result of redistricting approved by the General Assembly in November, Oconee County voters formerly in the East Oconee Precinct (known earlier as Athens Academy Precinct) will be moved from one state House District to another.

The District numbers also changed, so what now is House District 117 will become House District 120, and what is now House District 119 will be House District 121 for the elections to be held in May and November.

Voters from East Oconee, which is now consolidated into Civic Center, will move from the 117th to the 121st House District.

Voters in the old Civic Center Precinct are in the current 119th House District and will be in the new 121st House District.

The notifications going out to voters will inform all voters of their new House Districts.

The 1,382 voters in the old Antioch Precinct and the 2,816 voters in the old East Oconee Precinct will receive a second mailing a couple of weeks later telling them of the change in their voting location, Anglin said.

Voters in Farmington, who are now merged into the Bishop Precinct, and in North High Shoals, who now are merged into the North Oconee Precincts, will not receive notices since they have been voting in Bishop and North Oconee since November of 2020, according to Anglin.

Absentee Ballots

Jennifer Stone, Assistant Director of Elections and Registration, told the Board at the meeting on Tuesday that the first day for anyone to send in an application for an absentee ballot for the May 24 Primary Election is Monday, March 7.

The new election law passed by the General Assembly last year March stipulates that absentee ballot requests can be received up to May 13, she said.

Details on how to apply for an absentee ballot and a link to an application form are on the web site of the Board of Elections and Registration.

Anglin told the Board that “We are going to be going out to local nursing, retirement homes, Presbyterian Village, at the end of March” to explain the procedures for applying for an absentee ballot.

Anglin said she has set aside a week for her and her staff to make these visits.

“We are going out to these places and helping the residents so they know this is the application to fill out,” she said. “We can check it here for them. We don’t want a lot of applications coming back that we have to reject.

“So we feel it is better to be proactive and go to these locations where we see higher volume of people voting absentee,” she said.

At present, the county has 31,894 registered voters, according to Anglin.


The video below is of the March 1 meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration.

The Board met in the room at the Elections Office that will be used for early voting.

I asked Anglin if she would turn on my camera to record the meeting, and she agreed to do so.

At the table as shown on he screen below are, left to right, Ken Davis, Jay Hanley, Anglin, and Doug Hammond.

Board Member Kirk Shook did not attend the meeting.

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