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What to expect as early voting begins May 18 for June 9 primary
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Poll worker Susan Joninas unpacks supplies Friday, May 15, 2020, at Gainesville Exploration Academy for early voting. The first three weeks of early voting will be held at the school instead of the Hall County Government Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

The polls will look a little different when early voting for the June 9 primary begins Monday, May 18, with some extra precautions and a new location to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Early voting has been moved from the Hall County Government Center to Gainesville Exploration Academy on McEver Road. Voting will be held there 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning May 18. During the third and final week of early voting, June 1-5, voters can go to the North Hall Community Center, the East Hall Community Center and Spout Springs Library, in addition to Gainesville Exploration Academy. Voters can also cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at those locations.

Voter guide 2020: Learn what's on the ballot and find preview coverage of Hall County's contested race.

Elections Director Lori Wurtz said people at polling places will be required to practice social distancing by staying six feet apart. Sneeze shields will be installed at the “poll pads,” where voters check in with a poll worker on an electronic tablet. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrances and exits of the polling places. Poll workers will sanitize equipment between every voter.

Wurtz said poll workers will be wearing masks, and they can choose to bring their own or have one provided. The same rules and safety precautions will apply to all polling places, she said.

Voters are encouraged but not required to wear masks, Wurtz said.

Gainesville Exploration Academy was chosen as the new location because it allows more space for social distancing and does not require voters to use an elevator.

“We wanted to be able to provide a similar number of machines as we have in the past but at the same time offer the six feet of social distancing, as well as have a really perfect area for lining up voters,” Wurtz said.

Voters can also mail in their ballots. 

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has mailed every registered voter an absentee ballot application, and all voters will be able to vote by mail if they would prefer. An absentee ballot application is also available on the Hall County website.

Wurtz said the county elections office has received about 60,000 absentee ballot applications, an increase from the typical 5,000 to 7,000 applications in past elections. The county has about 130,000 registered voters. 

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said once the county elections office issues a ballot, or processes a ballot application, the application is sent to a third-party vendor, which is contracted by the state, for mailing. Voters can see if their ballot has been issued by checking the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office My Voter Page. They can also contact the county office by phone at 770-531-6945 or email at elections@hallcounty.org

Crumley said as of Thursday evening, the county had issued 27,894 ballot applications to the third-party vendor.

The June 9 election also includes the presidential preference primary and other ballot items, including E-SPLOST and bond referendums for local school systems, that were on the ballot in March. The March 24 presidential preference primary was rescheduled due to COVID-19, but early voting had already begun. Voters who did not vote in the March election will receive a ballot with the items that were on the ballot in March as well as general primary ballot items. Voters who cast their ballot in March will receive ballots with only the June 9 races.

The county is looking for poll workers. To apply to be a poll worker, contact Paige Thompson with the Hall County Elections Department at 678-696-2505 or pathompson@hallcounty.org. An application is posted on the Hall County website. 

Poll worker training has been adapted as well.

“The poll workers who are seasoned and who have received training earlier in the year will be provided training they can do in their home that the (Georgia) Secretary of State has made available to them on the website,” Wurtz said. “... The poll workers who are brand-new will be coming in in small groups, like five, to receive some one-on-one training in that small group, and then they also will have the opportunity to view the videos and take the quiz.”

The elections office has a frequently asked questions section on its website. Voters can check their registration status, find their polling place or view sample ballots on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office My Voter Page

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