Sharon Gregg, who took over as director of Elections and Registration in Oconee County in September, introduced herself to Oconee County Democrats last week with a report on the November and December elections and tips on things to come.
Gregg said the two elections took place without any glitches and that turnout was high.
“The longest anyone waited in line was 20 minutes,” Gregg said referring to the December 6 runoff. “And that is great. We had people just swarming in. I love it. I love it when people want to vote.”
Gregg said some new procedures were used in both elections.
The Poll Pads, which had been used at precinct polling stations for voter check-in since the Dominion voting equipment was installed in 2020, were used for early voting this fall as well, she said.
Next month, she said, the state is rolling out a new voter registration system, named GARVIS, which will give her office more control over the registration process.
“One thing I’ve learned about elections is that it is ever changing,” Gregg said. “It’s a constant change. You have laws that change constantly. You have procedures. You have equipment that changes.”
In her comments, Gregg praised her staff for its hard work and Oconee County voters for their high level of participation.
Praise Of Voters
Gregg joined Oconee County with 15 years of experience working in elections in Georgia.
Included were stints in Walton County and most recently Newton County. She had been assistant director of elections in both counties.
In the Jan. 19 meeting with Oconee Democrats, Gregg noted the county’s high turnout rates.
The county ranked number 1 in the state in turnout in the December runoff election, as it has in the last four state-wide elections going back to November of 2020.
“That’s one thing I learned about Oconee County,” Gregg said. “Oconee votes, and I’m very proud of that, I’m very proud to be a part of that.”
Newton County ranked 100 out of the 159 counties in the November election and 121st in December.
Walton County ranked 41st in November and 58th in December.
Both counties have more than twice the number of registered voters as does Oconee.
Report On Last Elections
Gregg said check-in time with the electronic Poll Pads is 45 seconds or less.
She said she remembers well when voters had to come to a poll worker, show identification, and then wait until the worker would page through a paper roll to verify the registration of the voter.
Gregg said there had been no challenges to the registration of voters in Oconee County before the two elections just completed and no challenges at the polling places.
“If the person has already voted,” she said, “you can’t challenge them. It is only prior to them voting.”
She also said there was no voter fraud in the county.
“We have audits, and all of the audits have checked out perfectly,” she said.
Gregg also said there had been no complaints about the removal of the drop box from outside the election office next to the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.
In November, 4.1 percent of the active voters in Oconee County cast a ballot by absentee by mail, and that figure in the Dec. 6 runoff was 3.5 percent.
In November of 2020, during the pandemic and when a drop box was placed outside the Election Office, 22.9 percent voted with an absentee ballot, but in November of 2018, a more normal year but one without a drop box, absentee balloting was 4.5 percent of the total.
Gregg said the new voter registration system will be app based and will provide more local involvement and control.
The only elections currently scheduled for this year are in Watkinsville, where the terms of the mayor and two council members expire.
A big change for her office, which will be important in 2024, is the move to the county’s new administrative building now under construction at the U.S. 441 Bypass and North Main Street, north of Watkinsville.
“We’re thinking July, but you never know if that is a definite,” Gregg said of the moving date.
In the future, advance in person voting will be at that office, rather than at the Civic Civic Center, as it was this year, Gregg said.
“We’re looking forward to the move,” Gregg said. “We’re excited. It’s going to give us more office space. More storage space, because we do have a lot of equipment.”
“Looking forward to 2024, it is going to be a big election year,” she said. “We’re looking at the possibility of five elections.”
At present, the parties are still negotiating over the timing of the presidential preference primaries.
In addition to the presidential primaries, the state will hold its general primaries, general primary runoffs, if necessary, the general election, and the general election runoffs, if necessary.
Future Of Runoffs
In the question and answer session following her presentation, Gregg was asked what she thought will be the outcome of the call by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the elimination of runoffs.
“I would like there not to be a runoff,” Gregg said. “But if it continues, it is part of our process. We are used to it.”
Gregg said she does not have a preference at this point for an alternative to the runoff.
“That is one thing you can do as voters,” she said. “You can reach out to your legislators” and state your preferences.
Another member of the audience asked Gregg for information on the level of registration in the county. Gregg said her office does not keep that information.
|Gregg Responds To Questioner 1/19/2023|
Oconee County had 30,494 active voters at the end of the Dec. 6 runoff, according to the state election results.
Going into that election, it had another 2,684 inactive voters, some of whom voted and became active.
Many of those inactive voters, however, have moved out of the county and have not yet been purged from the rolls.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau population projection for Oconee County is 43,023 as of July of 2021.
The most recent Census Bureau projection also is that 73.7 percent of the population is voter age, that is, 18 years old or older. That translates to 31,708 persons.
Based on that calculation, 98.1 percent of Oconee County’s voter age population is registered (30,494 divided by 31,708).
The Democratic Party leadership agreed to use my camera and tripod to video record its entire meeting on Jan. 19, which took place at the Oconee Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville.
Party Chair Courtney Davis introduced Gregg at the beginning of the meeting, and Gregg spoke and then answered questions for the first half hour of the meeting.
Assistant Director Jennifer Stone and Administrative Assistant Teresa Wallace joined Gregg, but they did not come to the podium and are not visible in the video.
I also attempt to cover the Oconee County Republican Party meetings, but it prohibits recording of those meetings. I write about the Republican Party meetings when someone provides me with an audio recording. The prohibition of audio recording is nearly impossible to enforce.