— By Emil Moffatt, WABE, May 19, 2020 —
Monday was the first day of in-person early voting for Georgia’s June 9 primaries.
Because of the coronavirus, many counties are opening fewer polling sites and limiting the number of people inside at once. That meant long lines for some.
In Cobb County, voters stood outside, six feet apart, waiting to get inside. That’s where we met up with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to talk about both in-person voting and vote-by-mail.
On the emergency measure passed Monday by state election board allowing for absentee ballots to be scanned by counties starting June 1.
“Well, the county elections officials were concerned that if they didn’t do some scanning prior to June 9, you’d end up not getting results for several days,” said Raffensperger. “About 1.5 million people have requested an absentee ballot… Just like today, when you start your early voting when they scan those ballots, but they don’t tabulate. The counties said, ‘what if we can scan these ballots, but we don’t tabulate anything.’ And so they [the state election board] developed strict guardrails on that. And so that was vetted from the law and from the side of county elections officials.”
On the state still urging voters to use vote-by-mail when possible
“It’s not too late to request an absentee ballot. Go ahead and send that in, and you’ll get it back because the main rush has already kind of flowed through. There’s still plenty of time –over three weeks before Election Day on June 9,” said Raffensperger.” We would like you to do it sooner than later because then you’re putting yourself at the mercy of the reliability of the U.S. mail. They’ve done a great job; the postal service has done a good job. But you can also drop these off at a drop box just like you have here in Cobb County and all the other counties. If you don’t get it [the absentee ballot] soon enough, you can always swing by and drop it off.”
On concerns about the security of vote-by-mail, especially from prominent Republicans.
“I think Georgia has a relatively safe and secure process. We always hear concerns about the absentee ballot process just because that’s really what the presidential commission that was co-chaired by President Jimmy Carter came up with in 2005. He expressed his concern that if there’s going to be fraud, the greatest area of potential for fraud is in the absentee ballot,” said Raffensperger. “That’s why we do signature match, that’s why when you get your absentee ballot request form, it’s going to ask you for your birthday. Those are the kind of things that help putting “belts-and-suspenders,” you know, the checks that we have in that… And then when you get your ballot, you’ll have to sign it again, and there will be another signature match on that. We want to make sure it is the voter that’s voting.”