Nearly 16 percent of Oconee County’s registered voters have cast a ballot already for Tuesday’s primary and non-partisan Judicial elections through in-person voting, with a quarter of those casting an early in-person vote doing so on Thursday and Friday.
Rebecca Anglin, Director of Elections and Registration, said wait times had been “upwards of 45 minutes all day long” for early in-person voting on Friday and “average wait time” on Thursday was 25 minutes.
Early voting took place at the Office Elections and Registration across from the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.
Final turnout in the 2018 May primary and judicial elections was 27.3 percent, with 9.6 percent voting in person.
If election-day voting on Tuesday matches that of four years ago, when 63.7 percent of those who cast a ballot did so on election day, final turnout on Tuesday would be high.
Actual election day voting, however, is likely to make up a smaller percentage of the final vote than four years ago, given the pattern in recent elections, making it difficult to project from the early voting figures to final turnout.
The Office of Elections and Registration received another 347 accepted absentee ballots by the end of the day on Friday, bringing the total number of votes recorded by the end of the day to 5,352, or 16.7 percent of the 32,034 eligible voters.
Election day voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the county’s eight precinct voting locations.
Party Of Ballots Cast
For the May 24 election, voters can pick the Democratic ballot, the Republican ballot, or the non- partisan Judicial ballot. Georgia does not have registration by party.
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If voters pick either the Democratic or Republican ballot, they are given the non-partisan judicial ballot as well.
As of the end of early voting on Friday, only 12.7 percent of the total 5,005 in-person ballots were Democratic. The Republican ballots (4,362) made up 87.2 percent of the total.
Only nine of the ballots (0.2 percent) were solely for the non-partisan Judicial elections.
Of the 347 returned and accepted absentee ballots, 101 (29.1 percent) were Democratic, 245 (70.6 percent) were Republican, and one (0.3 percent) was solely for the non-partisan Judicial race.
The absentee ballots roughly match partisan voting in the 2020 presidential election, when Republican Donald Trump received 65.9 percent of the vote in the county and Democrat Joseph Biden received 32.4 percent of the vote.
At the end of early voting in 2018 in the county, 72.5 percent of the ballots cast were in the Republican Primary, and 26.9 percent were in the Democratic Primary.
Oconee County has 29,251 active and 2,783 inactive voters on its roll, for the total of 32,034. The 5,005 votes cast in-person are 15.6 percent of that figure.
Official turnout is computed at the end of the election based on the number of active voters, which includes any previously inactive voters who cast a ballot in the election.
Local School Board Contest
The popularity of the Republican ballot locally could be the result of interest in the Board of Education Post 3 election, the only contested election at the county level on the ballot.
The Democratic Party did not put up any candidates for any of the local elections, but three persons are competing for the Republican Party nomination for Post 3 on the School Board.
The three Republican candidates for Post 3 are Ryan Hammock, Julie Mauck, and Elliott Rogers. Signs for Hammock and Mauck are visible along the roadways throughout the county.
The Oconee Enterprise erroneously reported in a front-page story on Thursday that the Board of Education election was non-partisan and that the names of Hammock, Mauck, and Rogers appear on the Democratic ballot as well.
Enterprise Editor Michael Prochaska corrected the error on the paper’s web site and through social media on Wednesday, before the print edition was mailed to subscribers. (He also informed me of the error and suggested I note the correction in this post.)
Both the Democratic and Republican ballots have a non-binding question asking for voter support for non-partisan School Board elections.
The Oconee County Republican Party leadership copied the local Democratic Party question, labeled it on the Republican ballot as from the Democratic Party, and then launched a campaign to get voters to vote against non-partisan elections.
The only joint meeting of Hammock, Mauck, and Rogers was before the Oconee County Republican Party at the end of March.
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The three mostly agreed on what they would do on the School Board, with all expressing strong approval of Oconee County Schools.
They differed more noticeably in style and on what they chose to tell those present about themselves and their backgrounds.
A full transcript of the session is available in a post I did from two audio recordings provided to me from the session.
The Oconee County Republican Party refused to allow me to video record the meeting.
Amy Parrish, incumbent Post 2 School Board member, who is unopposed on the Republican Party ballot on Tuesday, also spoke at the meeting, and the transcript includes her comments.
Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling have qualified to run as Independents on Nov. 8. Repetske is seeking to run for Post 2, and Eagling is seeking to run for Post 3.
Though they have qualified, they must submit signed petitions with the signatures of 1,425 Oconee County registered voters requesting the inclusion of their names on the ballot for their names to be listed in November.
A group of parents of children in Oconee County Schools is working with Repetske and Eagling to get signatures on the petitions. The deadline for submission is July 12.
The Oconee County Democratic Party sent out an email message on May 18 pointing out that there are no Democrats running for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners or for the Oconee County Board of Education.
“But there are Independents and they need your help,” the message said.
The Democratic Party plan is to have persons with the petitions stationed the required distance from voting locations on Tuesday to give voters a chance to sign them.
The petitions do not ask voters to commit to vote for Repetske or Eagling, but the petitions ask that the names of Repetske and Eagling be placed on the ballot.
The voter history files show that Repetske has voted Democratic in two primaries and not voted in five primaries since he began voting in Oconee County in November of 2012.
Eagling has voted Republican in one out of three primaries since she moved back to Oconee in November in 2016. She did not vote in the two other primaries.