At Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s urging, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations has agreed to extend Columbus’ early voting for Tuesday’s runoff by two hours on Thursday and Friday, the final days of advance voting.
The hours were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now they will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The mayor made the request Tuesday night, after the 5:30 p.m. Columbus Council meeting. She told elections director Nancy Boren the city had heard complaints about the schedule.
Rumors spread the move came after councilors coming to the meeting tried to vote too late.
District 8 Councilor Walker Garrett said Wednesday that he tried to vote after 5 p.m., because he had not checked the schedule.
Did he complain the hours needed to be extended?
“I didn’t,” he said. “I thought it, though.”
With “all the stuff thrown around about voter suppression” this election year, he felt day-shift workers should be able to vote later in the evening, after work, he said.
Tomlinson responded to the Ledger-Enquirer’s inquiry Wednesday night, in a voice message saying District 7 Councilor Mimi Woodson found people trying to vote when she got to the council meeting around 6 p.m., and they were upset they were not able to cast ballots after they got off work.
The extended hours will increase the cost of the runoff, which was not included in the elections office budget, though councilors were warned runoffs were possible, when the budget was approved.
Boren believes the entire cost of the runoff will be about $60,000. To keep the early voting poll open after hours in the City Services Center at 3111 Citizens Way, she will need eight poll workers paid $10 an hour, and a sheriff’s deputy who’ll make $25 an hour.
The elections office will pay $30 an hour for the deputy, because the city government uses a third-party vendor that charges $5 an hour to handle payments to law enforcement officers working security while they’re off duty, Boren said.
Though no local races are on the runoff ballot, Columbus residents have shown considerable interest in the holiday election: 543 voted in person on Monday and 992 on Tuesday. Boren said her staff had mailed out 3,412 absentee ballots as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, and had a stack of absentee ballot applications that had just come in the mail.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been sending absentee ballot applications to their partisans.
All county residents who were eligible to vote in the Nov. 6 General Election – whether they voted or not – can vote in the runoff.
Those who are 65 or older or disabled and requested a mail-in absentee ballot for the Nov. 6 election automatically will be sent absentee ballots for the runoff. They do not have to request another one, Boren said.
In Harris County, early voting began Tuesday and continues through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the elections office, 104 N. College St. in Hamilton.
Residents unsure of their eligibility can check it online through the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page, www.mvp.sos.ga.gov, where they also can see sample ballots.
Only two races are on the runoff ballot:
▪ Republican Brad Raffensberger and Democrat John Barrow face off for the Georgia Secretary of State position formerly held by Governor-elect Brian Kemp.
▪ Incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton and Democrat Lindy Miller vie for the 3rd District Public Service Commission seat.
Georgia requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID to cast ballots. That includes a passport, a driver’s license, a license bureau-issued state ID for those who don’t have licenses or a government employee ID such as a military card.
All of Muscogee County’s neighborhood voting precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for Election Day.