Mail-in absentee deadline extended as thousands vote early for Georgia’s Tuesday runoff

The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations posted this photo to its Facebook page Friday, showing a near-empty City Service Center lobby with an hour of early voting left to go.
The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations posted this photo to its Facebook page Friday, showing a near-empty City Service Center lobby with an hour of early voting left to go.

Well, if you can believe it, this election year finally is about to end, and so is the election, with Georgia’s last runoff on Tuesday.

It has been one for the record books, officials say, because we had record turnouts for the Nov. 6 midterm, which so hotly was contested here that candidates for governor kept arguing about it afterward.

Just this past Friday, the person serving as Georgia Secretary of State until we see who wins the runoff sent out a news release saying absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election will be accepted until Dec. 7, under a court settlement:

“U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg signed a voluntary consent order negotiated by the Democratic Party of Georgia and Secretary of State Robyn A. Crittenden to extend the deadline for acceptance of absentee ballots in the December 4, 2018 run-off election. Certification of results for the November 6, 2018 election was enjoined until 5 p.m. on November 16, 2018,” it says.

“Based on the terms of this consent order, an absentee ballot postmarked by December 4, 2018 – the date of the run-off election – and received by county election offices by December 7, 2018 must be counted if the ballot is otherwise valid. County officials must include these absentee ballots in their certified election return.”

OK, so maybe Tuesday won’t be the end of this election.

It seems to have been longer than a few months, from the party primaries and nonpartisan local elections on May 22 and the ensuing runoff July 24 to the November election to here. It seems like we elected Skip Henderson mayor two years ago and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson already left to run for the U.S. Senate, yet Henderson’s still a month away from taking office, and we’re just now wrapping up the final runoff, and it’s almost Christmas.

As voters who’ve not voted early go to neighborhood polls 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Columbus already will have banked thousands of ballots, some from residents who at a rate of 130 an hour voted early in-person last week in the Community Room of the City Service Center off Macon Road, like this: Monday 543; Tuesday 992; Wednesday 999; Thursday 1,296; Friday 1,841; total 5,671.

At the mayor’s request, the elections board extended voting by two hours on Thursday and Friday, shifting the schedule from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to 8 a.m.-7 p.m., based on complaints some people wanted to vote after they got off work.

More people turned out on those days, but the extra hours apparently did not spur a swarm of late voters to the poll – at least not Friday evening when elections office Facebook photos showed a near-empty lobby outside the Community Room.

Beyond the early in-person vote, thousands of mail-in absentee ballots are coming in, and as noted above they must be counted if they’re back by Dec. 7. Usually the deadline is 7 p.m. Election Day, when the polls close.

A Saturday printout of early votes by precinct, including both mail-in and absentee in-person ballots, totaled 9,243.

The Muscogee County ballot has only two races:

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.

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 unsure of their eligibility can check it online through the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page, www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

As most people know and we remind them anyway, Georgia requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a passport, a driver’s license, a license bureau-issued state ID for those who don’t have licenses, or a military or other government employee ID.