Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answered questions Monday about the now-postponed presidential primary, including the status of hundreds of thousands of ballots already cast.
In a live-streamed press conference, Raffensperger said that the rollout of the state’s new $104 million voting system was going well, but ultimately his office decided to delay in-person voting until the May 19 primary for state and federal offices as the threat of coronavirus spread continues to grow.
“We made this decision after discussions with our experts and stakeholders in the interest of public health and the integrity of the vote,” he said. “Those who have already voted should be confident that their votes will be secure and counted in May.”
The new ballot-marking device system Georgia now uses will allow county officials to program ballots that won’t include the presidential primary and other races slated to be decided on March 24 for those voters who participated in early voting. All other registered Georgians will see every contest they are eligible for, including the presidential primary.
“With more than a week left, we judged that the risk presented by the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the time that remained before the upcoming election made it imperative that we delay the election,” Raffensperger said.
Janine Eveler, Cobb County’s elections director, said her office had been fielding coronavirus questions for the last few weeks. Her staff put together kits for poll workers that included hand sanitizer and gloves, but when Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday urged schools to close, “the dam sort of broke.”
“Many of our poll workers said it was just no longer something that they could risk, [their health and] contracting this virus,” she said. “So we were getting poll workers that were unfortunately having to quit.”
The secretary of state’s office said the average age of a poll worker in Georgia is 70 years old.
One option the state is pursuing would beef up the state’s current no-excuse absentee by mail voting process, sending ballot applications to all registered voters above a certain age.
Voter registration will also open back up, allowing more potential voters to be eligible for the May 19 election.