There has been a lot of talk lately around Georgia’s planned May 19 primary, including calls by one of the state’s top lawmakers to move the election date into June because of concerns with the COVID-19 outbreak. In an exclusive interview with InsiderAdvantage Monday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood firm on his commitment to the May 19 date. He also stressed that he “values the integrity of the political procedure and will follow the plan set forth while also prioritizing the health and safety of Georgia voters.”
Raffensperger has already postponed the presidential primary from March 24 to May 19, and said Monday that he is unable to postpone the presidential primary again. “The election has already been extended the maximum the law allows and cannot be extended again,” he said.
As for moving the May 19 primary when Georgia voters will cast ballots for a U.S. Senator, members of the U.S. House, state lawmakers, local officials, Raffensperger said the date is set by state statute. He could only move the election date if Governor Brian Kemp extends his State of Emergency Declaration. The current one is set to expire on April 13. “And even with the extension, we could only push the election date out two weeks to the first week of June,” said Raffensperger.
Moving the election date also causes problems with holding a runoff, and still having the appropriate time needed to distribute ballots for early voting and absentee balloting to begin on time for the November general election. With the number of candidates expected to run for three open Congressional seats in Georgia, officials are all but guaranteed the need for a runoff.
Another concern is the time needed to print ballots to be mailed overseas, especially ballots for members of the military.
Raffensperger has already announced that his office is sending out absentee ballot applications to the state’s 6.9 million active voters for the May election. Voters wanting to absentee vote will fill out that application, choosing the party ballot they desire, sign their names and seal the envelope, place a 55-cent stamp on it and return it to their county elections office.
IAG asked him if there was a deadline for submitting applications, his response:
“There isn’t one in the law. But there is a practical one. Voters really need to get it in probably a week before the election. It has to be received and input. Then we mail them the ballot the next day and that could take a couple of days to get to them and they have to vote and get it back into the county’s hands by Election Day. So they need to mail it no later than Saturday to assure it’s in the office Tuesday.”
Officials said today, March 31, is the earliest day for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot. Voters can go into the elections office and fill out an application for an absentee ballot if needed.
Completed ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on May 19 to be counted. Voters can mail them or return them in person to the county elections office. Officials said anyone not receiving an application in the mail can also download one from the state SOS website and return it to their county elections office.
Raffensperger says the state will also hold in-person voting.
For those who have already cast their ballots in the Presidential Primary during early voting will not vote President again in the May 19 primary. Those who had not already voted in the Presidential Primary will be able to cast a ballot in that contest. For those voting in person, officials said the new voting machines are programmed to separate the names of who early voted and those who did not.