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Board talks state election changes
Voters line up for Saturday voting at the Sharon Springs precinct location. Pollworkers said they had voters waiting for them to open when they arrived well before 8 a.m. The line had remained steady all day long. Voters said it was about a 25 minute wait. - photo by Jim Dean

Local elections officials discussed possible legislation expected this year that would impact Georgia’s election process at a meeting this week.

At a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections meeting on Tuesday morning, the board and Barbara Luth, the county’s director of voter registrations and elections, about legislation that has been introduced this session.

Joel Natt, a Republican member of the board, said though there were several proposals, it was likely only one bill would end up passing.

“I’ve been advised from our delegation that there will be a single bill addressing all the fixes to elections,” Natt said. “This will include the new machines. It will include the state report and how it is going to be. It is going to consolidate several election bills already out there.”

Members of the board took the opportunity to discuss what has already been proposed.

Senate Bill 30

One bill that has already received bipartisan support is Senate Bill 30, which allows Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters, such as military members and private citizens living outside the country, to submit their votes via email.

“I know 30 is being rolled into that consolidated bill,” Natt said.

House Bill 27

A change that could impact some local voters would be House Bill 27, which shortens the time for “certain small municipalities to shorten the advance voting period for municipal elections and runoffs” and to provide staffing for those elections.

“That would affect the city of Cumming,” Luth said.

House Bill 57

One proposal unlikely to even see the state House floor, according to Natt, is House Bill 57, which says “all eligible electors shall be mailed an absentee ballot for each primary, election, and runoff in which they are eligible to vote” and sets the process for canceling such ballots.

Natt said the Democrat-sponsored bill would likely not move forward in the Republican-controlled House and gave county figures as an example of the costs that would come with the proposal.

“At 157,000 registered voters, we will print 157,000 ballots, mail them to everybody, then they can return them by mail or they can come in in advance [voting] and ask that it be canceled,” Natt said. “We would have to print at our cost and mail at our cost to every voter.”

Luth said if the bill passed, the department would need to hire a third-party printer to handle the load.

House Bill 117

There have been instances of confusion with some local voters on election days, when voters must vote at their own precinct unlike during advance voting, when voters can go to any polling location.

A bill being considered could eliminate that confusion by allowing voters to vote at any precinct on election day.

“The problem with that is we would have to have more laptops than we have and we have to have the connectivity,” Luth said. “We do have some connectivity problems in certain areas. Because the only way you could do it so that somebody didn’t cross-vote is to have it marked immediately like we do in advance voting.”

Senate Bill 22

Another proposed change aimed at increasing “privacy and security to electors” would alter how absentee ballots are mailed out. The change would remove the voters’ oath and identifying information from an outside mailing envelope to a smaller, inside envelope.

Natt said the proposal had “good and bad points.”

“The good point is instead of the back of the envelope, it would be right inside the envelope now, all that information,” he said. “The bad part is now, our staff would have to open it and have to validate it, which would bring into question … I don’t question the integrity of our staff, but it would bring in the question of integrity possibilities.