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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

‘I hope never to be in this position again,” elections board member says of no Saturday voting

Macon-Bibb Board of Elections could not meet tight deadline as advanced voting runs June 10-14
Liz Fabian
The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections concluded there was no way to be ready to hold Saturday voting for the June 18 runoff election.

A perfect storm of staffing shortages, a computer breach, schedule conflicts, confusion over redistricted ballots and a tight timeline for elections means Macon-Bibb County voters have fewer options to vote in the June 18 runoff elections. 

Only two early voting locations will be open and there is no opportunity for Saturday voting. 

Advanced voting begins Monday for runoffs in nonpartisan elections for Macon-Bibb County Commission districts 3 and 8, Democrat Georgia House District 145 and Republican Georgia Congressional District 2. 

Macon-Bibb Elections Supervisor Tom Gillon said runoff elections are considered an extension of the election or primary, which limits your choices.

If you chose a Democrat ballot in the May 21 election, you can only vote in the Democrat or nonpartisan runoff. Same is true of those who voted Republican — they can only vote in the GOP or nonpartisan race. 

Those who chose the nonpartisan ballot may switch to a party ballot and any registered voter who did not cast a ballot in the May 21 election also is eligible to vote however they want. Nonpartisan runoffs will be included on the designated political party ballots, too, in participating districts. 

Keep in mind, only 22 of the county’s 31 precincts will have runoffs June 18 because the handful of races only cover designated districts. There are no countywide or statewide contests to settle on the ballot. 

For advanced voting, only the Board of Elections at the Macon Mall and the Elaine Lucas Senior Center in Carolyn Crayton Park will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

Summer camp is underway at Theron Ussery North Macon Park, so that early precinct will not be available for the runoffs, but is expected to be open before the Presidential Election. 

Board of Elections Democrat representative Tom Ellington sought to have Saturday voting for the runoff, but the only possible date would have been June 8.

After hearing from elections technicians, the board concluded there was not enough time to prepare equipment, correct recent issues and have precinct cards formatted for every ballot. 

Last month’s election, it took 9 hours to program voter cards and technicians had to travel to Houston County to do it because of Macon-Bibb’s cybersecurity issues. 

Some of the county’s online services are still not operating and the local board of elections was not able to link to the Secretary of State’s Office with potentially compromised computers. The local office received two new laptops, but there is too much work, too little time and not enough people. Hiring temporary workers isn’t a solution because of the time it would take to train them, the board learned..

“It would be my strong preference to do Saturday voting,” Ellington said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure we don’t find ourselves in this situation again, to say we legally could, but we can’t.”

Board of Elections at-large member Mike Kaplan said there is a very tight timeline to hold runoffs.

“It makes it a lot more difficult to get this done, especially when they have a recount,” Kaplan said. 

The board also determined Marshall Talley was not eligible for a recount in his tight race with Macon Water Authority District 2 incumbent Desmond Brown. 

Talley got his request in before the deadline following certification, but only 27 votes separated the two. The margin of victory was greater than the 0.5% threshold that requires a recount.

Due to the reported ballot errors and other issues, the board might have been able to authorize a recount, but Talley would have had to have requested one before certification, board attorney William Noland said.  

During last week’s called meeting, the board of elections also heard public complaints about misspellings on the ballot, voters placed in the wrong district, an outdated precinct list that did not reflect Harvest

Voters during the primary found access blocked to the Beulah Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near Houston Avenue where the Georgia Department of Transportation was making emergency repairs.

Cathedral’s new name as Fall Line Church, and access to the Beulah Baptist Church precinct being blocked as the Georgia Department of Transportation was making emergency repairs. 

Although the board generally does not respond to public comments during its meetings, Chair Karen Evans-Daniel said the complaints “do not fall on deaf ears.”

The board wants to put in place better checks and balances prior to the November election and have the new library branch at Macon Mall open for advanced voting for better handicapped accessibility from the parking lot. 

Ellington also pointed out that a change in Georgia law will now allow candidates to proof ballots before they are finalized. 

Elections staff also plans to check with county officials and utilities to make sure there are no construction problems or other issues that could affect precincts during election season, as was the case on MLK Jr. Blvd. near Beulah Baptist Church. 

To check voter district and precinct information, use the My Voter Page of the Secretary of State’s website.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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