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Whitfield County Board of Elections 04/15/21

Members present: Stephen Kelehear (chair), Carol Byers, Rob Cowan

Registrar: Mary Hammontree

Old business

M. Hammontree reported she’ll be presenting the BOE goals to the county commission at their May meeting.

New business

  1. Signature check—M. Hammontree said the state and the University of Georgia are doing a signature check on 25 absentee ballots. R. Cowan asked what the purpose was. M. Hammontree said she wasn’t sure, and though she doesn’t expect any problems, she doesn’t know what they will find.
  2. Investigation—The state is investigating seven voters who voted twice in either last year’s presidential primary in March, the May primary, or the June run-off. Two voters voted absentee and in person, and five voted in early voting and at their precinct. M. Hammontree said they were Democratic and Republican voters and she doesn’t believe they were attempting to commit fraud. She believes they forgot they voted the first time. All were older voters. R. Cowan asked if staff have spoken to the voters. M. Hammontree said they haven’t and that would be the investigators’ responsibility. She said she believes the voter updates on “poll pad” weren’t done in a timely manner by the vendor and staff weren’t aware voters had voted when they cast their second ballots. She said the problem has been corrected for future elections.
  3. New legislation— M. Hammontree reported: 1.  Giving food and water to voters standing in line will be prohibited after July 1.  2. Security paper will be needed for absentee and emergency ballots, which will add to the costs of holding elections (up to $4,000 in general elections). They will have to have paper ballots on hand at each site for ten percent of the eligible voters. They will be used if the lines are more than thirty minutes. 3. The time period for early voting has been shortened but they will have to have on it on three Saturdays. Sunday voting is optional. The comments from board members and staff indicated they are not planning to offer Sunday voting. 4. They will have to provide a daily count of people voting in person, absentee applications received, ballots received, and ballots rejected on their website. She stated this will be hard to maintain during a general election with a large turnout. 5. They will have to send a log of applications mailed out and send it the SOS. Duplicate applications will be subject to a fine. There will be restrictions on third parties sending out absentee ballot applications. In response to a question from S. Kelehear, M. Hammontree said rollover absentee ballots will be available to elderly and disabled voters. They briefly discussed the identification requirements for absentee ballots. 6. The state can appoint a new registrar if they find it necessary.7. County boards will not be allowed to apply for grants. 6. Voters will not be allowed to vote out of their precinct unless they provide an affidavit explaining why they can’t get to their precinct, and it has to be done before 5:00 on election day.

In response to a question from S. Kelehear, she said this year’s elections are for a few city council seats and are nonpartisan, and she doesn’t expect any problems from the new.  But next year, she said many of these changes will be costly to the county.  M. Hammontree said they will be needing guidance from the SOS.

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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