Elections

Official: Students from elsewhere try to vote in Columbus after instructor offers extra credit

‘This is such a big deal’: Columbus man says candidate with character got his vote

Chance Clark casts his vote in the midterm elections at St. Paul UMC in Columbus, Georgia. He discusses how Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp got his vote.
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Chance Clark casts his vote in the midterm elections at St. Paul UMC in Columbus, Georgia. He discusses how Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp got his vote.

Though some Columbus voting precincts had an early active voter turnout of almost 40 percent, they still had lines of people waiting to cast ballots on Election Day.

Notable among them was the Psalmond Road Recreation Center, 6500 Psalmond Road, which has 6,346 active voters, those considered most likely to vote. When early voting ended at 7 p.m. Friday, 2,421 had cast ballots in advance, about 38 percent.

Still a line formed there Tuesday, as some voters waited up to an hour at the poll on the fast-growing Muscogee County panhandle.

Among voter problems reported on Election Day were complaints that requested absentee ballots came late or not at all, and some college students who don’t live in Columbus tried to vote here, without changing their voter registration address to Columbus or voting absentee by mail.

Among those with an absentee-ballot issue was Gail Franz, who lives in Columbus’ Midland area. She had to leave town Oct. 11 for Little Rock, Ark., to take care of her late mother’s property there. She asked for a mail-in absentee ballot application that arrived in two or three days, then filled it out and sent it back.

But weeks went by, and no ballot came in the mail, so she started calling the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, and got varying accounts of where her ballot went.

On Oct. 30, she was told her ballot had left Texas on its way to Arkansas.

“I am assured that it will be here today!” she wrote in an email. “No matter how ‘special’ I’ve been feeling over this, it is obvious that – IF the ballot arrives – I will be paying some kind of ‘poll tax’ because I will be sending it back by Express Mail.”

Still the ballot did not arrive, so she called the Muscogee County elections office. “I was getting really upset at that point,” she said.

The local elections office rushed the ballot to her, and she immediately filled it out and sent it back, paying $6 for Express Mail to get it here on time. Mail-in absentees had to arrive at the midtown elections office by 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted.

“I just couldn’t believe what it took,” Franz said, later adding, “I just kept on being a squeaky wheel…. I don’t know where the problem is, but there’s some kind of problem.”

Valerie King of Greenridge Drive in Columbus said she requested an absentee ballot that never arrived. The Muscogee elections office said it had no record of her request.

The nonprofit ProPublica recorded a complaint that a woman voting at St. John A.M.E. Church at 3980 Steam Mill Road was told she could not vote there because she’d already filed an absentee ballot.

At First African Baptist Church on Fifth Avenue downtown, Columbus State University students from out of town who had not changed their voter registration records to a Columbus address were coming to vote.

Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations, said the students told poll workers a college instructor offered them extra credit to vote, even though they are registered in another county and have neither requested an absentee ballot nor changed their registration address to Columbus.

They are not allowed to vote here under those circumstances, Boren said, and no one should offer anything of value in exchange for a vote.

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