A Saturday evening post on the Georgia Secretary of State's website - unannounced and unpublicized - announced that early voting in the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) will be suspended, and the PPP election day will be moved to May 19. The release includes information on the tabulation process for votes already cast in early voting, that seems to contradict standing voting policies and procedures.
Election Day voting for the Presidential Preference Primary, scheduled to take place on March 24 in Georgia, will now be held in conjunction with the General Primary/Non-Partisan election on May 19. Early voting for the Presidential Preference Primary, which began statewide on March 2 and was scheduled to continue until Friday, March 20, will be suspended.
This change in the schedule and procedure for voting in the PPP was released In an unannounced and unpublicized press releases, posted on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website yesterday evening, March 14, at approximately 5 p.m., Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, at approximately 7 p.m., posted the information to the SOS's Facebook page, followed by a post to the office's Twitter account.
“Maintaining the integrity of the election depends on the talents of poll workers who are in the high-risk group because their average age is over 70. So concern for their health is a central consideration in this decision,”Raffensperger stated in the release.
The printed press release posted on the SOS website, included a statement by State Senator Nikema Williams, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, that indicated a complicated process of tabulation of votes already cast during early voting that includes an invitation for those who have already voted, to vote again on the newly-set May 19 election day, and thus cancelling out their prior ballot cast during early voting or absentee voting.
“Georgians who have already cast their vote in person or by mail for the March 24 primary will be able to vote again in the May 19 primary for the elections already scheduled for that date,” William’s statement included in Raffensperger’s press release said. “If Georgians who have already cast their vote for the March 24 primary do not vote again in the May 19 primary, their votes for the presidential preference primary will still count."
This provision, as stated by Williams, would seemingly allow for a voter to change their vote from a previously cast vote – potentially allowing voters who voted for presidential candidates who later announced their withdrawal from the race, to vote for a different candidate – a process not allowed under normal voting laws in Georgia. Under standard voting procedures set forth by Georgia voting laws, any ballot cast during early voting or absentee voting is final, and any vote cast will be counted toward that candidates total votes, whether they have subsequently withdrawn or not. Re-votes, due to a voter’s candidate withdrawing from the race, were not allowed under Georgia voting laws.
No comment from a representative of the Republican Party of Georgia was included in the press release.
“Secretary Raffensperger has represented that all votes already cast in person and all absentee ballots will be counted and every Georgia voter that has not yet had a chance to cast a ballot in the March 24 elections will be able to do so on May 19, along with the elections already scheduled for that date,” the press release states.
ConncectLocal will contact the Stephens County Registrar’s office on Monday morning to obtain a final count of votes cast in Stephens County in early voting, and will contact Raffensperger’s office to ask for details regarding when, and how, already-cast votes will be tabulated. ConnectLocal will update this article as more information becomes available. We have provided a full copy of the statement released by the Georgia Secretary or State’s office last night.
FULL TEXT OF SECRETARY OF STATE RAFFENSPERGER' S PRESS RELEASE
ATLANTA -- In light of the public health emergency posed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in-person voting presents increased risk to voters and poll workers. Governor Kemp has declared a public health emergency. President Trump has declared a national emergency, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. "Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large."
Maintaining the integrity of the election depends on the talents of poll workers who are in the high-risk group because their average age is over 70. So concern for their health is a central consideration in this decision.
"Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Georgians and to ensure that as many Georgians as possible have an opportunity to vote," said State Senator Nikema Williams, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. "Continued in-person voting could compromise both goals. Georgians who have already cast their vote in person or by mail for the March 24 primary will be able to vote again in the May 19 primary for the elections already scheduled for that date. If Georgians who have already cast their vote for the March 24 primary do not vote again in the May 19 primary, their votes for the presidential preference primary will still count."
Secretary Raffensperger has represented that all votes already cast in person and all absentee ballots will be counted and every Georgia voter that has not yet had a chance to cast a ballot in the March 24 elections will be able to do so on May 19, along with the elections already scheduled for that date."
"Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Presidential Preference Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 General Primary."
The CDC recommends those, including seniors, who are at greater risk from COVID-19 limit their exposure to the virus by keeping space between themselves and others, avoiding crowds, and staying at home during outbreaks in their community. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has likewise identified individuals 65-years-old and older as facing increased risk from COVID-19. He explained that older Americans infected with COVID-19 stand a greater risk of serious difficulty and even death from the virus. All individuals should practice social distancing and minimize contact with others to minimize the risk to them and others.
With this decision, Secretary Raffensperger looks to confront the public health threat to our state, and the health of Georgians, while also maintaining an avenue for the people of Georgia to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote. In the midst of a public health emergency like the one facing our state, taking strong action to protect all Georgians, including its dedicated poll workers, is paramount.