After two weeks of advance voting, mail-in ballots are proving a popular option for Forsyth County voters in the June 9 General Primary, Nonpartisan General Election and Presidential Preference Primary elections.
Through Thursday, May 28, nearly 18,000 Forsyth County residents have voted in the elections, 1,533 in person and 16,451 by absentee ballots.
“It is a massive amount of mail-in ballots,” said Mandi Smith, Forsyth County's director of voter registrations and elections. “Again, given the current circumstances (and) the current situation, we are very happy that voters are taking advantage of that.”
In light of the COVID-19 response, which moved the dates of the primaries, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffsenberger's office mailed applications for absentee ballots to all active registered voters.
As of press time, which did not include Fridays totals, 37,054 absentee ballots have been issued since Tuesday, April 21 and 16,451 ballots – 5,156 Democratic, 10,886 Republican and 409 nonpartisan – have been returned.
For those who have received ballots but would rather vote in person, Smith recommended they bring the ballot with them to streamline the process of making sure voters only vote once, including signing an affidavit that they have not tried to vote by mail and having a poll worker verify that they have not voted by mail.
“There are checks and balances in place, so we will verify in our system that the ballot has not been returned and go ahead and cancel the ballot then and there,” Smith said. “Then, the voter will be allowed to vote in person.”
While voting has been open so far at the Forsyth County Elections Office (1201 Sawnee Drive), starting on Monday, June 1, advance voting locations will open at Hampton Park Library (5345 Settingdown Road), Sharon Springs Park Community Building (1950 Sharon Road), and Midway Park Community Building (5100 Post Road).
When voting in-person, poll workers will follow local and state health guidelines to limit the threat of COVID-19 and voters will be asked to maintain a safe distance during the process.
“We've had steady voting in-person throughout the two weeks,” Smith said. “I would say it's averaging about 200 a day, maybe 175 a day on average.”
The elections department is taking several steps to minimize risks, including putting markers spaced six feet apart on the ground for voters standing in line, sanitizing machines and anything else voters might touch, having voters scan their own IDs and requiring poll workers stay as far apart as possible from each other and voters, including when handing out stickers to voters.
“The stickers are still there, but we've got it set up so that it's contactless,” Smith said. “The stickers are out on a table stuck to tape so that that way voters can pick them up themselves and are not having to have that close, physical interaction with the poll workers.”
All locations will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, June 1 to Thursday, June 4 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, June 5.
Applications for absentee ballots must be returned to the elections office by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 5.
Absentee ballot applications can be downloaded at ForsythCo.com and those who bring the ballots to the elections office can leave them in a secure drop box that is in a well-lit area and under 24-hour video surveillance.
More information is available at Forsythco.com/Departments-Offices/Voter-Registrations-Elections.