With new social distancing measures in place, advance in-person voting for the presidential and statewide primary elections began this morning, Monday, May 18, at the Camden County Annex Building in Kingsland.
Advance voting will continue from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays through Friday, June 5, except for Memorial Day on May 25. There also will be a Saturday voting day on May 30, when the facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“They are welcome to come and vote in person at the polling location,” said Camden County Elections Supervisor Shannon Nettles at a remotely held board of elections and registration meeting last week.
The machines will be located inside the conference room of the annex building, located at 107 N. Gross Road next to the Camden County Public Library.
During Election Day on Tuesday, June 9, voters will cast their ballots at the designated polling place for their voting precincts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
According to Nettles, more than 6,000 absentee ballot applications were mailed out from the state to the county’s registered voters.
“As of today shortly before this meeting, we had close to and just under 1,500 ballots that have back to us for processing. And, generally, we only check them in, sort by precincts and then store them away in the vault,” Nettles said.
She expects to continue receiving ballots through Election Day. Voters may return them to the Camden County Board of Elections by mail or by returning them during hours of operation to the early voting site in Kingsland or the elections office in Woodbine.
“Daily, we get double-loaded trays from the post office with absentee ballots and that’s a good thing,” she added.
However, the board did acknowledge that it may cause some logistical issues they have not had before.
The board hopes to count all of the votes on Election Day in a timely manner, but chairman Joe Michaels said he was skeptical they would be able to finish by day’s end. They can start counting at 7 a.m., but the ballot counters must be sequestered during the 12 hours the polls are open.
“I don’t think they are going to let us start early, but I do think they will let us go longer,” Michaels said.
He also questioned whether they would need a larger room to account for adequate social distancing.
“We may need a bigger place to do this because of keeping people separated. We will still be in that mode, I am sure,” he said.
Some board members also questioned whether the state was providing any guidance on these types of issues.
“We are working on a plan for opening these ballots. You know, it’s a large undertaking, never had this many before,” Nettles said. “So we are putting our heads together and working on some solutions and may have a couple of options for you all coming up shortly.”
Board member Kyle Rapp asked how signature reviews were being conducted. Nettles explained the procedures from the state, but said she only had a few that had been set to the side for review.
Rapp also questioned whether the county had enough personal protection equipment to provide poll workers and Nettles said she had a supply of full face shields, disinfectant and gloves for staff.
Michaels also suggested the office explore the possibility of providing masks for voters who did not have masks.
Nettles asked the board for permission to purchase acrylic shields for use at the elections office as well as polling places.
“Many agencies are going to utilize these in the June election for their poll workers who are on the front lines on Election Day,” Nettles said.
A local vendor, Dalton Signs, provided those items at a significantly lower cost than others outside the community and board members agreed to move ahead with the purchase.
Rapp also asked whether Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order would prevent poll workers over 65 from participating in the upcoming Election Day.
“There’s a good many of them that fall into the over 65 (age group) but we have been calling around to see how many of them plan to stay home or be able to work and several are choosing to work the polls,” Nettles said. “… I think maybe two or three have requested not to work this election due to concerns related to COVID, otherwise our other 75-plus individuals we have been training, they are eager, I think, to get out and help get this election finished up.”
She said the secretary of state had not advised them that older poll workers were not to be used and said elections are considered part of the essential national infrastructure. However, she agreed to get confirmation from the secretary of state’s office.
Michaels said the county would have a difficult time running an election if that’s the case since most of their poll workers are over 65.
“I think we will still be able to use those that want to come out and serve us,” Nettles said.
The board discussed the outstanding issues that still needed to be addressed before the June 9 election, but did not schedule a meeting or work session.
For questions about the upcoming election, local voters may call the board of elections office at (912) 576-3245.