Update: Hall County Elections Director Lori Wurtz said results could be delayed, as the Georgia Secretary of State's Office has asked counties to hold results until all polling places statewide have closed. Some polling places in Georgia will be open until 9 p.m.
Technical problems, a lack of poll workers and high turnout has prompted some Georgia counties, including Fulton, to extend voting hours, according to the Associated Press.
Wurtz said about 21,200 absentee ballots have been received and accepted, about 4,400 people voted early in person, and about 10,000 people had voted Tuesday as of 6 p.m. She said about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out had not been returned.
Although many voters in Hall County have opted to vote by mail in the June 9 primary, polls will be open countywide Tuesday with changes including new machines and social distancing regulations.
The county elections office had processed about 14,700 absentee ballots as of Friday morning, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said. Another 2,400 had arrived at the office but had not been processed yet.
Although a third-party vendor contracted with the state had been processing absentee ballots, the responsibility shifted back to county offices during the last week of early voting, Wurtz said.
The county has received about 60,000 absentee ballot applications and sent out about 31,000 ballots. County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said of the remaining applications, about 18,000 were duplicate requests, or people who sent in multiple applications. Another 6,000 were returned mail, including many people whose mailing addresses were different from their physical addresses, and the Secretary of State’s vendor re-sent many of those ballots. She said 100 were being held for additional information, such as if the voter did not sign the ballot or designate a party. Elections officials had been unable to reach those 100 voters.
Crumley said 400 of those ballots had been meant for another county and were sent to the correct county. Another 1,000 of the applications had been canceled if the voter decided not to vote by mail, changed their party or realized they made a mistake on the application.
About 3,400 people had cast their ballots in person during early voting as of Friday morning, Wurtz said.
There are about 125,000 registered voters in Hall.
If a voter has requested an absentee ballot but decides to vote in person instead, they can have their absentee ballot canceled. Voters can call the elections office at 770-531-6945, or they can bring their unused ballot with them to the polls and ask a poll worker to cancel it. If a voter wants to cancel an absentee ballot request but does not have the ballot yet, the poll worker can still cancel the ballot and allow the voter to cast their ballot in person.
Wurtz said when voters check in at the polls, a poll worker will be able to access information about whether a voter has requested an absentee ballot or already voted by mail.
Absentee ballots must be returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted. Voters can mail them in or put them in the drop box outside the front doors of the Hall County Government Center at 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.
June 5 was the last day of early voting, and on Tuesday, voters will need to go to their polling places to cast their ballots. Voters can find their polling place on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or call the elections office. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
One polling place has changed for this election. Those who normally vote at Lula City Hall will now vote at First Baptist Church of Lula, located at 5167 Maiden Lane. The church has more space for social distancing than City Hall, Wurtz said.
Extra precautions will be in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the polls. At each polling place Tuesday, hand sanitizer will be available as voters enter and exit. Poll workers, who will be wearing masks, will be sanitizing machines between each voter. Signs will also encourage voters to remain six feet apart, to cover their mouth when they cough, to wash their hands often and wear a mask if they have one.
Wurtz said voters had cooperated with the new precautions during early voting.
“They’ve been very supportive of everything,” she said. “We haven’t had anyone try to break the rules or be disobedient in any way. They all really come in with the right attitude.”
Tuesday’s election includes both Georgia’s general primary and presidential preference primary. The March 24 presidential preference primary was postponed due to COVID-19, but early voting had already started. Voters who did not vote in March will get a ballot with the items that were on the ballot in March as well as general primary ballot items. Voters who cast their ballots in March will receive ballots with only the June general primary races.
Tuesday will also be the first time many voters use Georgia’s new voting equipment. Voters will select their choices on a touchscreen, review their choices, print their ballots and feed the ballots into a scanner. Ballots are counted when they are scanned, not when they are printed, so voters cannot leave the polling place with their printed ballots.
Wurtz said general primary results will be reported before presidential preference primary results, under the direction of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.