Georgia made headlines on Monday as the state recorded a record-breaking number of voters for the first day of advanced voting, but voters in Dade were not among those counted.
The Georgia Secretary of State shared a press release regarding Georgia’s opening day of advanced voting for the 2020 General Election.
“Record early, in-person voting capped off an already unprecedented election cycle,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “On our successful first day of early in person voting, we saw almost 130,000 people cast their ballots, mirroring the enthusiasm surges we saw in almost every other state that has started early voting for November. With three weeks of early-person voting; absentee ballots that can be returned by drop box, by mail, or in person to an elections registrar; and Election Day voting, Georgia provides plenty of opportunities for Georgia voters to participate in the democratic process.”
Dade County voters, though, will not be receiving the full three weeks of early voting since polls were closed on Monday. Despite notices sent out by Dade County’s Board of Elections regarding the closed polls on Monday, many still attempted to vote in Dade because major news sources reported the start of Early Voting in Georgia as October 12 and for the vast majority of counties in Georgia polls were open. In Dade’s neighboring counties of Walker and Catoosa polls were open on Monday.
According to the Secretary of State elections calendar for 2020 – “October 12, 2020 Advanced In Person (Early) Voting begins for the November General Election and Special Election. (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-385)”
Georgia Code 21-2-385, referenced on the calendar entry says –
“(d) (1) There shall be a period of advance voting that shall commence:
(A) On the fourth Monday immediately prior to each primary or election;
(B) On the fourth Monday immediately prior to a runoff from a general primary;
(C) On the fourth Monday immediately prior to a runoff from a general election in which there are candidates for a federal office on the ballot in the runoff; and
(D) As soon as possible prior to a runoff from any other general election in which there are only state or county candidates on the ballot in the runoff.”
As this is prior to a General Election with federal as well as state and county candidates, advance voting shall commence on (A) the fourth Monday immediately prior to each primary or election.
So why were Dade polls closed? According to Elections Supervisor Lowanna Vaughn, they are following the county’s operating days and schedule. For Dade County voters that means that Monday, October 12 polls were closed due to Columbus Day, a federal holiday. It also means that voters will only have until 2 p.m. on Fridays to vote due to the county furlough which closes offices early on Fridays.
Information from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) shows election officials are required to conduct early voting to start as specified above – or for the 2020 General Election the fourth Monday immediately prior to the General Election – and “shall be conducted during normal business hours on weekdays during such period and shall be conducted on the second Saturday prior to a primary or election during the hours of 9:00 A.M. through 4:00 P.M….Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, counties and municipalities may extend the hours for voting beyond regular business hours and may provide for additional voting locations pursuant to Code Section 21-2-382 to suit the needs of the electors of the jurisdiction at their option.”
County Executive Ted Rumley was asked if there was any reason polls could not have been open on Monday, October 12. Rumley said no, as the Board of Elections has the right to use the building on a Saturday for Saturday voting when county offices are closed and for any other time they decide to be open.
In fact, Rumley explained, the board is separate from the County Commission in that they are politically appointed in Dade with two appointees each from the Democrat and Republican parties and one appointed by the Probate Judge as Dade County does not have an Independent party. The Elections Supervisor is hired by the Board of Elections.
“They can be open all day on Fridays and on Saturdays, it is totally a call of the Board of Elections,” Rumley said. “It is between the Board of Elections and Secretary of State.”
Early voting did open in Dade on Tuesday, October 13, with a steady stream of voters that numbered more than 400. As a comparison, in the 2016 election Saturday Early Voting totaled 200 votes cast in Dade County, bringing the total for 11 days of voting to 2000 votes, or an average of 180 votes a day for the weekdays.
Advanced Voting in Dade will be open Monday thru Thursday 8 am to 5 pm, Friday 8 am – 2 pm, until October 30. Saturday voting will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on October 24. No voting on November 2 with polls open 7 am to 7 pm on Tuesday Election Day, November 3.