Welcome to another midterm primary: All the early voting you want, 12 hours a day. No wait. No lines. No rush. No worries. No one cares.
So far the local turnout for early voting in Georgia’s May 22 party primaries and county nonpartisan elections has been underwhelming, like one of those old one-liners with reverse extremes: People stayed away in droves. The silence was deafening. The shallow enthusiasm was unfathomable.
Advance, in-person voting is into its last week, and unless some last-minute swarm hits the poll in the Citizens Service Center at 3111 Citizens Way, off Macon Road next to the library, the hope of having a decent turnout will be blindingly dim.
On Friday, the total of mail-in absentees and in-person votes came to 4,647. Those voting in-person as of 7 p.m. Friday came to 2,773. With 12 days of voting since the early poll opened April 30, the average was 231 a day.
Elections director Nancy Boren said it started briskly, with a local church giving residents rides to the poll. The first day had 345, the second 316, the third 332.
But then the pace slacked off a hundred: 222 on May 3, and 231 on May 4. And the first weekend was like a slow drip: 66 on Saturday, and 59 Sunday.
After that, it was back to around average: 251 on May 7, and then 252, 210, 237 and 252.
Gone are the presidential passion and devotion of 2016, with its long line that stretched from the voting machines down the hall, winding through the service center lobby and sometimes trailing out the back door.
Folks flocked like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Birds” to the service center community room 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to cast their ballots, keeping poll workers busy most of the day.
Despite the social-media storm and thunder and other drama in the mayor’s race, residents don’t seem so excited about voting early for that, or for governor, school board or council. They’re not crowding the poll like black Friday shoppers, or calling the elections office to demand they be mailed an absentee ballot right away.
Speaking of which, if you still need the elections office to send you a mail-in ballot, you’d better get your application in the mail right away, because the ballot has to be back at the elections office by 7 p.m. Election Day, May 22.
And that’s three mailings: your mailing the application in, their mailing the ballot to you, and your mailing it back.
And if you don’t download the ballot application online, print it and fill it out and mail it in, and instead call the elections office at 706-653-4392 to have an application mailed to you, that will be four mailings.
Mail-in absentee applications are online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page,” www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. They can be mailed to the Muscogee County Elections and Registrations at P.O. Box 1340, Columbus, Ga., 31902.
It is possible local voters aren’t crowding the poll because they’re still not sure which ballot they want. It is also possible they’ve seen the ballot and don’t know who some of the candidates are. I don’t either, so I’m just going to write in some friends’ names. (“Dude! You’re getting a vote for public service commissioner!”)
Sample ballots also are on the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page.”
Most of the people voting early in Muscogee County are picking Democratic Party ballots. Counting both the early in-person votes and those mailed in, the elections office Friday had recorded 1,926 Democratic ballots, 741 Republican, and 54 nonpartisan.
Normally it would be crucial to pick a ballot before you go to the poll, but maybe now it’s not, if no one else is voting. Maybe you can take all the time you want.
Harris County residents can vote early 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex at 104 N. College St. The phone number for its elections office is 706-628-5210.
Early voting ends here Friday at 7 p.m., and after that everyone has to wait until the following Tuesday, when all local precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Some folks say they can’t wait until this is over.
So it’s only fair to warn them several races have more than two candidates, and if the top contenders don’t bank some early votes now, they may not get enough to dodge a July 24 runoff.
We just had a taste of summer heat. Running for any reason won’t be pleasant, in that weather.
Running for office will be extra sweaty.