At various points, individuals joined and left the virtual meeting. I noted 21 attendees and board members online at one point.
First item on Agenda was public comment. One person had formally signed up to speak, but she was not in attendance at the time she was called. She did arrive later and was allowed to speak after the board presentations. A couple of attendees and one board member used the Chat option to ask questions and relay information.
Meeting minutes from 3 past meetings were approved.
Janine Eveler spoke at length about the operational status of the status of the upcoming election. The June 9th election is now a combination of three different elections: the presidential primary (originally scheduled for 3/24), the general primary (originally scheduled for 5/19) and the non partisan (judicial) election on 6/9.
Whether you choose to receive an absentee ballot or vote in-person, you will be given the option to choose a party ballot or a non-partisan ballot. Non-partisan ballot will only have judicial candidates on it.
Throughout the meeting, there were statistics regarding absentee ballot processing that were tossed about. It got a little confusing as to what the real numbers were compared to numbers being presented by an attendee via Chat. Because the SOS decided to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, there was initially a huge backlog of requests and it was taking 3-4 weeks to get a ballot mailed out. (This was confirmed by the Board Chairman who mailed his application in on 3/21 and received his ballot on 4/20.) That has since tapered off and the election office is processing 3,000-4,000 applications received daily with a 24-48-hour turnaround. As of May 4, they had received approximately 160,000 applications. These estimates are based on number of filled mail trays, not an exact count. Of the number of ballots sent out, approximately 12,000 have been returned by voters.
When applications are received at the BOE they are marked with a received date. When the BOE has finished processing the application and sends it to the vendor to print and mail ballot, it is given an issued date. The vendor is now printing and mailing the ballots within 3 business days. The vendor is located in Arizona, so mail time is estimated at one week to receipt by voter. The applications and ballots have tracking numbers, so you can check online (MVP.sos.ga.gov) to see the status of your application. Ballots may be mailed back, hand-delivered to an early voting poll manager, or dropped into drop boxes at 4 locations in Cobb County. If you do not receive a requested ballot, you can also email the BOE at firstname.lastname@example.org. Janine has also secured a location at Jim Miller Park to use as an additional area for processing absentee ballot applications, to assist the main office.
There was an issue with the vendor earlier in the process. The instructions to the voter describe a white inner envelope and an outer envelope to use when returning the completed ballot. At first,
the vendor was including a white piece of paper folded in half rather than the white inner envelope. This initially caused a lot of confusion, since the instructions did not match the materials received. This has since been rectified and the white inner envelope is being included. If voter received the white paper, they can use it like the envelope. It is mainly to keep the ballot private when it is separated from its outer envelope (that contains the voter’s signed oath). The signature on the outer envelope must match the voter’s signature in the records.
If you don’t receive your absentee ballot, or you receive it and decide to vote in person, you can cancel the absentee ballot (via signed affidavit form). You can bring a completed absentee ballot to in-person advance voting and give to poll manager. You do not have to wait in line to turn in an absentee ballot. Just go in and ask for poll manager. On election day, you must either put your completed absentee ballot in the drop box or cancel it and vote in person. You cannot give it to the poll manager on election day.
There are 14, 000 presidential primary ballots being securely held from the original 3/24 primary (in person advance voting and absentee ballots) that will be counted in the totals on 6/9.
On 6/9, in person voting will be impacted by social distancing protocols, reduced number of locations and hours (8a-6p instead of 7a-7p). There are not enough staff members to work under COVID-19 conditions. Many poll managers, supervisors and workers are retired and/or older individuals who are at risk during this pandemic and feel uncomfortable working the polls. The polling locations will have 6-ft distancing in line and at the voting machines per CDC guidelines. Number of voters inside the building at any time will be limited. Poll workers will be wearing masks, gloves and have hand sanitizer at their locations. There will be styluses to use at the voting machines and the styluses and voting cards will be sanitized after each use. Cobb BOE will request that voters wear masks when they come to vote in person. Compliance is requested, but it cannot be made mandatory. You will not be prevented from voting if you arrive without a mask.
Discussion among board members about deadline for accepting absentee ballots. There is currently talk about accepting any ballot that is postmarked by election day and received by the Friday after election (for everyone, not just military and overseas citizens). Janine was under the impression there might even be a lawsuit in the pipeline regarding this. This has not yet been approved. At present time, ballots must be RECEIVED by 7pm on election day. This will include ballots placed in the drop box.
At this point, the individual (Monica Delancy) who had signed up for public comment was allowed to speak. She said that Janine had answered all her questions and she thanked the board.
Janine then talked about when absentee ballots can be opened and counted. Normally, they begin counting absentee ballots at 4pm on election day. They can start opening them as early as 7am on election day if it is advertised and parties know that it is happening. Ballot counters are sequestered for the entire time, so it is difficult to keep people inside for the longer periods of time. The State is looking at starting even earlier, given the number of absentee ballots being processed, but no decision has been made yet. As for certification of the results, this generally takes place on the Monday after the election. Cobb is planning on extending that to the
Wednesday after the election. They are actually allowed to take until the Friday (week) after the election.
Today (5/11) was the last day to register to vote. Voters could register or make changes online until midnight today. Change of address is required to be updated.
Brenda then spoke on the potential (and actual) losses of polling locations. Many of the polling location changes that took place earlier this year were to relocate polling places from schools to other locations. Several of those locations were churches. As of the time of this meeting, one polling location, Mt. Zion UMC has stated that their bishop is requiring that the church remain closed, so they will be unable to host the election. This will require an emergency temporary location change. This location will be combined with Dodgen 01, so two polling places at one location (Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Paul). BOE staff is reaching out to each and every location being used to confirm availability.
Janine then spoke on staffing issues at the polls. She does not have a confirmed number yet of poll workers willing to work during the pandemic. Her staff is reaching out to all supervisors, managers and staff to see if available. Previously, the poll staffing averaged 10-11 workers per
location. There is a shortage of managers and area supervisors. Some are not willing to make a commitment until closer to the election. Many are age 65 and older and are concerned that the State’s shelter-in-place order will still be in effect until after the election. Staff will be bare bones at each location.
Next meeting dates: June 9th at 7pm to oversee the election
June 17th at 12pm to certify the election
Meeting adjourned at 5:00pm.
Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings?
These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.
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