Need to register to vote? Here’s how
You can vote for governor, Congressman, Superior Court clerk, five state constitutional amendments, two statewide referenda and a local proposal to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays instead of 12:30 p.m.
Those are among the politicians and proposals you’ll get to pick from on your Nov. 6 General Election ballot in Muscogee County – if you are registered to vote.
The time to register – and to ensure your voter registration hasn’t lapsed – is running out.
The deadline normally would be Monday, but that’s Columbus Day, a state holiday when most government offices will be closed. So the deadline was moved to Tuesday.
Residents can register 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the county elections office on the second floor of the City Services Center at 3111 Citizens Way, off Macon Road by the Columbus Public Library.
But a trip to the elections office is not always necessary. Anyone with a Georgia driver’s license or state identification number can register online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, registertovote.sos.ga.gov.
Anyone without those numbers can download a voter registration form there or on the local elections website, www.columbusga.org/elections, print it out, fill it in and mail it in time to get a Tuesday postmark. The main post office at 3916 Milgen Road in Columbus closes at 7 p.m.
People who aren’t sure whether they’re registered can check their status online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page,” www.mvp.sos.ga.gov, which also has links for online registration and registration forms, and for sample ballots.
Besides the elections office, hard-copy registration forms are available at public libraries, schools and universities.
Checking one’s registration is advisable because sometimes people think they are registered when they are not. Also some people may think they need to register, when in fact they already have.
The Georgia Department of Driver Services once required that anyone obtaining or renewing a driver’s license “opt in” to be registered to vote at the same time. It since has changed that, so license applicants now must “opt out” if they don’t want to be registered automatically. Otherwise, they are registered.
On the other hand, residents who have long been registered to vote, but have not voted in a decade or more, may find that their registration has lapsed. They should check their status to ensure they don’t need to renew it before the deadline passes.
Elections workers do not willy-nilly erase voter registrations over a time lapse, said Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations.
If those who haven’t voted since 2008 or earlier have taken some other action regarding their status, such as changing the name or address on their registration or requesting a new voter precinct card, then that indication of their interest in voting precludes canceling their registration, she said.
The elections office in off years mails notices to those who have not voted lately, asking for a response. If it hears nothing from them, and they have no other contact with the elections system, they first are moved from the list of “active” voters to “inactive” voters, but remain registered.
If they still do not vote, transact some other elections business or respond to followup mailers, their registration eventually is canceled.
“If you haven’t voted since the 2008 presidential election, and you’ve had no activity with our office – and one other thing, if you have not renewed your driver’s license or your Georgia ID – then you might want to reregister,” Boren said.
Muscogee County residents who have no online access can check their registration by calling the local elections office at 706-653-4392.
The age at which you are eligible to register is 17½. If you turn 18 by Election Day – including Election Day itself, for those born Nov. 6, 2000 – you can vote. You must be a U.S. citizen who lives in the county where you wish to vote, and if convicted of a felony, you must have completed your sentence or probation, so you currently are not under the court’s supervision.
You will not have to wait long to cast a ballot. Early in-person voting begins in a week, on Oct. 15. Mail-in absentee ballots already are being sent out, Boren said. Anyone who wants a mail-in absentee ballot should call the local elections office to request it, and do so soon.
The deadline for requesting one is Nov. 2, but the ballot has to arrive back at the elections office by 7 p.m. Nov. 6 to be counted, so waiting until the last day to request one risks missing the deadline to return it.
Starting next week, advance in-person voting will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 2. The early voting poll will be in the Community Room on the first floor of the City Services Center.
Georgia’s voter ID law requires that anyone casting a ballot show a government issued photo ID card, including a driver’s license, passport, student identification card or a military or other government employee ID.
Sample ballots will be available at the voting poll, but Boren urges residents planning to vote on the constitutional amendments and state referenda to examine a sample ballot in advance, because reading through those proposals will take time.
Because this is a General Election and not a party primary, voters will not have to choose a Democratic or Republican ballot. But the ballot they get will not be short: A “composite” ballot of everything that Muscogee County voters could see includes 14 races plus the constitutional amendments, state referenda and the local liquor referendum.
Some of the races are confined to districts that include only parts of Columbus, such as the 3rd Congressional District, the 2nd Congressional District, and Georgia Senate District 29. Another benefit to seeing a sample ballot before you vote is knowing which races you’ll see and which ones you will not.
Boren said election workers occasionally have to argue with voters who believe they should be able to vote in a district they don’t live in.