Taking your summer vacation in mid-July? If you don't want to miss Georgia's party primaries and Columbus' vote on a local option sales tax, now's the time to apply to get an absentee ballot for the July 15 election.
Thursday was the opening day for absentee ballot applications, which voters can download from the Georgia Secretary of State's Web site at www.sos.ga.gov/elections/ElectionCenter08.htm or from the local elections office at www.columbusga.org/elections/elections.htm.
Voters without online access can call the Muscogee elections office at 706-653-4392 to have an application mailed to them, or drop by the office in the ground floor of the city Government Center's west wing.
Once completed, applications should be mailed to the elections office at P.O. Box 1340, Columbus, Ga., 31902, or faxed to 706-653-4394. Absentee voting begins June 2, and no ballots will be mailed out before then, said Nancy Boren, executive director of Muscogee's elections and registration office.
Residents who would prefer to vote absentee in person can do that at the elections office starting June 2. Boren said Georgia residents once had to give an excuse for voting absentee, but not anymore. The law was changed so anyone could do it, without giving a specific reason. Anyone who is disabled or age 75 or older can check a box on the ballot application, and automatically be mailed an absentee ballot for any primary runoff, for the general election and for any runoff resulting from that.
Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, those serving in the armed forces automatically can be mailed absentee ballots for any primary, general election or runoff in which a federal candidate appears on the ballot, for two general election cycles, said Kamanzi Kalisa, elections coordinator for the Georgia Secretary of State's office. Military personnel also have a box they can check on the absentee ballot application for that.
Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel is encouraging voters to get absentee ballots on the assumption that elections this year will draw a heavy turnout, leading to long lines at some polling places. Boren has said she expects a historic turnout for the general election in November.
On July 15, Columbus residents will vote on a local option sales tax, and the race for Muscogee coroner likely will be decided then, too, as the only candidates currently running are incumbent Bill Thrower and challenger Ricky Weeks, both vying for the Democratic nomination. No Republican qualified for that office.
Here's the 2008 Georgia elections schedule:
June 2: Absentee voting begins for the general primary. June 16: Deadline to register to vote or change an address for the general primary. July 7-July 11: Advance voting for the general primary. July 15: General primary election day. July 28-Aug. 1: Advance voting for a general primary runoff, if necessary. Aug. 5: General primary runoff election day. Oct. 6: Deadline to register to vote or change an address for the general election. Oct. 27-Oct. 31: Advance voting for the general election Nov. 4: General election day. Nov. 24-Nov. 28: Advance voting for a general election runoff, if necessary. Dec. 2: Election day for a general election runoff.