Early voting in Hall County’s municipal elections began Tuesday and will run through Oct. 29.
Critics of Georgia’s new election law have worried that added restrictions, such as greater absentee voter ID requirements, will dampen turnout.
Turnout was light, but Craig Lutz, vice chairman of the Hall County Board of Elections & Registration, said it’s too early to tell if the new election law impacted overall voter turnout.
He said he was encouraged by the number of people who have voted by mail thus far.
“When people show up to vote on the first day, it’s always exciting,” Lutz said. “I remember when I was elected to the City Council in Flowery Branch, I think there were only 70 votes total in that race. Municipal races typically do not get large turnouts, so the fact that we did have people show up on the first day, and the fact that so many people requested absentee-by-mail ballots is encouraging in the fact that it looks like a lot of people are really engaged in civic activities that are going on.”
Lutz, who was appointed by the Republican Party, noted that the races are nonpartisan and doesn’t believe that the new election law will hinder the voting process.
“I never saw the election law as being any kind of hindrance towards elections,” he said. “If anything, I believe it just clarifies and makes the voters more confident in the elections.”
Early voting polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Oct. 29, and Saturdays Oct. 16 and 23.
In Gainesville, early voting is held at the City Hall, 300 Henry Ward Way. To find the polling locations for the other county municipalities, visit the Hall County elections webpage.
The deadline to submit an absentee ballot application, which may be returned by email or fax, is Oct. 22.
Regardless of any postmark, ballots must be received in the elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, the same time as voting ends for all 31 Election Day precincts. Ballots cannot be returned via email or fax. They must be mailed in, dropped in the drop box, or delivered to the elections office in the Hall County Government Center at 2875 Browns Bridge Road.
“All absentee ballots must arrive at (the) county election office by election day,” according to the State of Georgia website.
In Hall, a drop box will be located on the first floor of the Government Center, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and only during the early voting period, which ends Oct. 29.
To print out an absentee ballot application, visit the Hall County elections website.
For more information on Hall County’s local elections, visit The Times’ 2021 voter guide.
Elections Manager Paige Thompson provided voter turnout data as of 2:45 p.m.
Thompson said the county will post the first update on its website Wednesday morning before 10 a.m. Georgia’s new election law requires election officials to provide daily reports on voter data during the early voting period.
The bulk of Georgia’s new voting law, SB 202, deals with absentee ballot ID requirements. Absentee voters are now required to provide their driver’s license number, a state ID number or a photocopy of an acceptable form of voter ID, such as a bank statement or utility bill. Under the old voting law, voters simply had to sign their oath on the absentee ballot envelope. Voters still need to sign the oath on their envelope; otherwise, it will be considered incomplete and slow the processing of the ballot.
Note that absentee voters are not required to provide an accepted excuse for not being able to make it to the polls. A provision to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting was nixed from the final bill following opposition from state Democrats and Republicans in swing districts.
An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about absentee ballots.