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Memorial Park Rec Hall in Athens, Georgia, served as one of the polling locations for Athens-Clarke County voting on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. All volunteers at the community center wore masks and gloves and made sure that voters remained 6 feet apart while waiting to vote due to COVID-19. Braden DeLamater, an upcoming freshman at the University of Georgia, checks in voters upon arrival alongside his sister, Amelia. (Photo/Caroline Head)

The 2020 election will be unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and record turnout is expected. Voters need trustworthy information on where, when and how they can vote. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an expectation for more mail-in ballots, with some voters uncertain about the safety of voting in person. The Red & Black has compiled important information for voting in November. 

Where can I vote?

There are 24 voting precincts in Athens-Clarke County that will be utilized in the general election. The ACC website also includes an interactive precinct map where voters can find their voting location based on their address. 

Even though some facility managers were skeptical about using their locations in June, none of the voting locations have changed due to COVID-19, said Lisa McGlaun, an elections assistant for the county government.

The ACC Board of Elections has utilized resources from both local and state governments to ensure that voting locations will be safe for voters and poll workers, according to McGlaun.

“Athens-Clarke County has been very proactive and diligent about trying to protect its citizens,” McGlaun said. “So we’ve gotten a lot of support in that way. I think the mayor and commissioners were very forward thinking with everything they have done.”

Poll workers will wear face shields and gloves, and the BOE is working to obtain as many alcohol and sanitizing wipes as possible for voter cards and machines, McGlaun said. 

Jack Henry Decker, a fourth year political science and international affairs major, voted in Athens during the June primary. Decker plans to vote in person again in November if Athens’ situation with COVID-19 remains “stable,” he said. After voting in the primary, Decker felt like his precinct safely implemented coronavirus precautions.  

“I’ve been lucky enough to not have to wait in hour-long lines,” Decker said. “I’ll probably try to take advantage of that just to feel a tiny bit more assured that my vote is going to count.”

Early voting explained

The general election will take place on Nov. 3, with voting locations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However there are dates before Election Day that voters will find helpful to organize their voting plan. 

The entire statewide in-person early voting period runs from Oct. 12-30, which includes weekend voting on Oct. 24 and 25. Each county assigns specific dates and times within the period for people to vote. 

Last week, the University of Georgia proposed hosting Stegeman Coliseum as an early voting location on campus, and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and ACC BOE approved the decision.

Other early voting locations in ACC include the BOE office, the Athens Regional Library and the ACC Tennis Center. 

UGA Votes is a student-led organization devoted to voter registration and engagement on campus. Executive director Marshall Berton said that early voting or absentee ballots are safe ways to avoid long lines on Election Day. 

“The big message that we're always pushing is waiting until Election Day, the lines get super long,” Berton said. “It can be really crowded, really busy and a lot of strain on the poll workers who are working that day. So it’s best to either early vote or not necessarily wait until Election Day.”

Casting your absentee ballot

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot in Georgia is Oct. 30, but Berton advises anyone who prefers to request an absentee ballot to do so as soon as possible. Once you receive and fill out your absentee ballot you can mail it to the BOE office or manually submit it to five different absentee dropbox locations around the city

The state of Georgia has authorized local elections offices to complete early tabulation on mail-in ballots, McGlaun said. Early tabulation allows local boards to open ballots and prepare them for scanning, however that does not allow local boards to begin counting, or scanning, the ballots. 

Early tabulation is one way that the Athens BOE office is preparing for an increased number of mailed in votes due to the coronavirus. 

“Like most counties around the state and most states around the country, this is a monumental task that we’re going to have ahead of us,” McGlaun said. “The voters in the county can rest assured that we will be here counting until it’s done.”

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