Columbus deluged with absentee ballot requests

Local elections workers weren’t getting a big rush of voters casting ballots early in person Monday for Georgia’s three-race Dec. 2 runoff.

What was crowding them was a crush of requests for mail-in absentee ballots.

Most came from Republicans using a mail-out they got from the state party. On that mailing, Gov. Sonny Perdue urges them to detach a postcard requesting an absentee ballot, fill it out and send it to their local elections office, the address for which is preprinted.

Nancy Boren, Columbus’ elections director, said her office had received about 6,500 mail-in ballot requests by Monday morning, and they had been coming in at the rate of about 1,000 a day – 500 in the morning mail and 500 in the afternoon. Boren said she had ordered 7,000 ballots for the runoff, but had to order 3,000 more because of the demand.

That could be bad news for Democrat Jim Martin, who’s challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the state’s most prominent runoff. The incumbent came close to winning outright on Nov. 4, when he got 49.8 percent of the vote to Martin’s 46.8 percent. Libertarian Allen Buckley got 3.4 percent.

To win without a runoff in Georgia, a candidate needs one vote more than 50 percent.

The only other partisan race on the runoff ballot pits Republican Lauren McDonald against Democrat Jim Powell for a Public Service Commission seat. On Nov. 4, McDonald got 47.2 percent, Powell got 47.9 and Libertarian Brandon Givens got 4.9 percent.

The third runoff is a nonpartisan contest for the Georgia Court of Appeals, with Sara Doyle facing Mike Sheffield. In a seven-candidate race on Nov. 4, Doyle got 22.5 percent of the vote. Sheffield got 20.9 percent.

Voters can cast their runoff ballots early in person today through Wednesday, 8:30-4:30 p.m. at the Muscogee elections office in the Columbus Government Center’s west wing, and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.

Boren warns those using a mail-in ballot to get it filled out and back in the mail quickly, as there will be no delivery on Thanksgiving. “People need to keep that in mind: If they’re doing everything by mail, they need to think about the holiday,” she said.

The elections office will be closed Thursday and Friday, though workers Friday still will be processing ballots.

Because no early voting will be offered Thursday-Monday, the last chance voters will get to cast ballots will be Tuesday, Dec. 2, when local voting precincts will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Boren said.