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Election security concerns may be cause for low voter turnout, director says
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Early voters arrive Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Hall County Library in Murrayville to cast their ballot. - photo by Scott Rogers

Concerns about election security may have led to a lower than expected voter turnout in Hall County so far for primary races.

Even with more early voting locations and more days to vote than in 2018, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said she believes misinformation proliferated on social media and other platforms may have led to lower numbers. 

She thought Hall County might pass its total 2018 midterm primary turnout during the early voting period, but that isn’t likely to happen with one day left of early voting. 

As of May 18, 10,567 people have voted in Hall County, which is about 7.6% of eligible voters. The total turnout in the 2018 primary was 19,431, which was about 17.8% of eligible voters. 

Hall County has seven early voting locations, while in 2018 the election’s office was the only location. The county also added two days of Sunday voting, new to the 2022 primary period. 

“Every year, social media is more and more active,” Wurtz said. “That’s where I believe that people are being influenced in some ways by what they see family members or friends saying, and it just makes it impossible to predict.”

Statewide, the numbers are different from Hall. 

Early voting turnout is nearly three times as high as the last midterm primary in 2018, according to the Associated Press. 

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Early voters arrive Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Hall County Library in Murrayville to cast their ballot. - photo by Scott Rogers

Georgia political candidates such as former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is running for governor, and state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, who is running for lieutenant governor, have continued to question the results of the 2020 election. At an event in Hall County, Jones claimed that Perdue would have won his race if Gov. Brian Kemp had challenged the results of the election. 

The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

“We’ll give them a tour, we’ll sit down and go over code with them from the code book,” Wurtz said of residents with concerns about voting. “We do everything that we can to answer their questions with facts and let them see what it is that they want to see.”

Latoya Castillo, the elections manager at Brenau Downtown Center, said that turnout picked up in the last week of early voting, and her location is one of the busiest in the county. Their number of voters doubled on Monday, May 16, Castillo said. 

“This week has been really busy, and I like that,” Castillo said. 

Voters walking out of Brenau on Thursday, May 19, said the process was quick and easy. 

Joe Randolph said he was most interested in the secretary of state race, because he owns a small business in Gainesville and wants better rules regarding business inspections. 

Deidra Randolph said she normally tries to vote early. 

“Avoid the lines,” she said. “If you can get in and get out that’s good.” 

Moving the ballot drop-box inside the Hall County Government Center has caused some complaints, Wurtz said. The change was made as part of SB 202, comprehensive voter legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2021. 

“They liked it the way it was, where they could just drive by, stop and deposit their ballot into the ballot box,” Wurtz said. 

Voters can drop off their ballot only during election office hours, but in 2020 they could submit their ballot anytime in the dropbox outside the government center. 

Election Day for primary races is May 24, and runoff elections will be held June 21 if necessary. The leading candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. 

Precincts close at 7 p.m., and election offices around the state must submit results by 10 p.m. Tuesday. 

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Early voters arrive Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Hall County Library in Murrayville to cast their ballot. - photo by Scott Rogers