By Tia Lynn Ivey
Amid growing fears over the spread of the COIVD-19 virus, which has now been declared a coronavirus pandemic and prompted a National Emergency, the State of Georgia has decided to postpone the March 24 Presidential Primary election. State officials fear the virus could spread more rapidly when people gather in lines in large numbers to vote. As of press time on Tuesday, Mar. 17, Over 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been found in Georgia, with one death thus far.
“I want to assure all voters that have already cast ballots – whether in person or by mail – that their votes will be counted,” said Jennifer Doran, Morgan County Elections Supervisor.
Georgia voters will now cast votes for the presidential primary along with a host of other state and local races in the May 19 Election, including a primary race for a Georgia U.S. Senate Seat.
One of the main concerns is the average age of poll works, which is about 70 years of age, since the COVID-19 is particularly lethal for the elderly.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Health authorities have advised people to avoid large gatherings, and everything from national sporting events to school have already been canceled. Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency in the state earlier Saturday. Besides Georgia’s significant role in picking the Democratic Party nominee, the presidential primary was also the first statewide test of a new $104 million voting system, which adds paper ballots to elections for the first time since 2002. Voters will pick their candidates on touchscreens and then can review printed-out paper ballots before depositing them into scanning machines. But continuing the March 24 vote as scheduled became increasingly untenable as the coronavirus spread.”
While the controversial move has voters worried about the effect this postponement will have, it also gives Georgians who haven’t registered to vote a second chance. Now, Georgians have until April 20 to register to vote in the May 19 election and will be able to vote for their preferred presidential candidate.
During Early Voting in Morgan County, 711 ballots were cast in person.
Early voting will resume on April 27. State election officials reported that more than 279,000 Georgians cast early ballots for the race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who are vying for the Democratic nomination for President, and Donald Trump, sole contender for the Republican ticket.
“Voters will be eligible to get the combined ballot which contains the Presidential Preference Primary and the General Primary/NonPartisan races,” said Doran. “During the past two weeks of early voting, we had an overwhelmingly positive response to our new paper-based voting system, and we look forward to more voters being able to vote on this system when early voting starts for the May 19 election.”
For voters concerned about contracting COVID-19, Doran noted that voting from home is possible with absentee ballots.
“For those voters who want to vote from home, absentee by mail is simple. We can email or mail them an application, or they can find a printable application on our county website,” said Doran.
To find out more information about voter registration, the postponed election and absentee ballots, call the Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration (BOER) at (706) 343-6311.