Friday, February 09, 2024

Oconee County Elections Board Gets Report On Upcoming Presidential Primary, Hears Request From Citizens For Public Comment Opportunity

***Only 12 New Voters Added To Roll In Last Month***

Oconee County picked up only 12 new registered voters in the last month, with Monday (Feb. 12) being the final day of voter registration before the March 12 Presidential Primary.

As of Tuesday, when the Oconee County Board of Elections and Voter Registration met, the county had received only 77 absentee ballot applications for the Presidential Primary.

Three of those have been sent out to military applicants, and civilian ballots will start going out on Monday, Sharon Gregg, Director of Elections and Registration for Oconee County, told the Board on Tuesday.

The Republican ballot contains the names of 11 candidates, and the Democratic ballot contains the names of three, but most of the candidates already have dropped out of the races, and the March 12 Presidential Primary in Georgia isn’t likely to be very consequential.

Advance voting will begin on Monday (Feb. 19) and run through March 8 and includes Saturday voting on Feb. 24 and March 2. Advance voting will take place at the Oconee County Administrative Building, 7635 Macon Highway, north of Watkinsville.

The Tuesday Board of Elections and Registration meeting was brief, lasting officially just less than 13 minutes.

Shortly after the meeting had ended, two of the four citizens in attendance asked Board Chair Jay Hanley to consider allowing public comment at future meetings.

After a nearly five-minute back-and-forth, Hanley said “We can put it (that topic) on the agenda for our March meeting.”

Director’s Report

Gregg told the Board during her Director’s Report that her office had completed logic and accuracy testing on Jan. 23 and “all of our equipment was tested and proven accurate.”

Gregg And Shook 2/6/2024

Gregg reported that she had received the 77 requests for absentee ballots. Applications are still being accepted.

The county has 30,475 active voters and 2,460 inactive voters, for a total of 32,935 voters, she said.

Gregg reported at the January Board meeting that the county had 30,405 active registered voters at the end of December, and 2,518 inactive registered voters, for a total of 32,923 registered voters.

While the total number of voters has increased by only 12, the number of active voters has increased by 70.

Gregg said she has 80 poll workers lined up for the March 12 election day voting, and that she is planning to have 100 poll workers for the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan election.

Gregg said she did not expect turnout for the Presidential Primary will be very great.

In 2020, turnout had been 48.3 percent. In 2016, it was 53.7 percent.

Other Items In Report

Gregg also told the Board that qualifying for the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan election will be from March 4 to 8, at the county Administrative Building.

Click To Enlarge

Qualifying for the November nonpartisan city races in Watkinsville also will be from March 4 to 8.

The Chair and two members of the Board of Commissioners are up for re-election, and contests will be held for the chair and two Posts on the Board of Education.

Also on the ballot are the Sheriff, Clerk of Courts, Tax Commissioner, Probate Court Judge, and Coroner.

Watkinsville has three Council Posts up for election.

While the last day to register for the March 12 Presidential Primary in Feb. 12, registration for the May 21 election closes on April 22.

Public Comment

Suzannah Heimel had asked Elections Board Chair Hanley about Public Comment before the meeting began and was told it was not on the agenda.

After the meeting, Victoria Cruz approached the Board, which was still seated and discussing election issues though the meeting officially had ended, if the Board had allowed public comment in the past.

Hanley and Board Members Doug Hammond and Kirk Shook were present. Members Ken Davis and Shami Jones missed the meeting.

“I’ve been on for the last 20 years and when I was on it in 2004 we never did,” Hanley said in response to Cruz. “We never have as far as I can recall.”

“That’s a decision the Board can talk about at some point but we never have and I’ve been on the Board for 20 years and we never have,” he continued.

Discussion Continued

“You all finished your meeting in 10 minutes,” Heimel said. “We have something to say and it could have easily been said. Don’t you want to hear from us? It is a presidential election. We have all of these open seats.”

Republican Ballot
Click To Enlarge

“People might want to come and speak,” she continued. “I’m going to the Board of Commissioners. They will let me speak there. The Board of Education let’s me speak there. This is the only place that we can’t.”

“We just follow precedent,” Hanley said. “We can discuss that at a later, at another time. We just follow precedent.”

“Can we discuss that in March?” Heimel asked.

“Can you tell me how I can get it on your agenda for new business?” Cruz asked before Hanley had a chance to reply. “Is that the way this should go?”

During the back and forth, Hanley said “I can put it on the agenda for new business and we can discuss it. But we’d have to come up with a time limit, with a number.”

Democratic Ballot
Click To Enlarge

“We can discuss it and if the Board decides to do it, we can do it,” he said. “I have no problem with discussing it. It is a decision of the Board as to if we do it.”

“We’ll put it on the agenda and we can discuss it and if the Board decides to do it, we can. But it’s the. I don’t have any problem putting that on the agenda,” he said.

“We can put it on the agenda for our March meeting,” he said as the exchange ended. 

That meeting is scheduled for March 15.


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

Gregg began her Director’s Report at 1:19 in the video.

The Board adjourned the meeting at 12:47.

I left the camera run because the Board continued its discussion after it officially adjourned.

Cruz approached the Board at 14:35 with her question about public comment.

Cruz, Heimel, Stephen Aleshire, and I were the four citizens present at the meeting.

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