ATLANTA — Georgia's upcoming June 9 primary will have more paper absentee ballots, fewer voting precincts – and some mistakes and misinformation.
Southwest Atlanta’s Dunbar Neighborhood Center won’t be a polling precinct this spring because of “COVID-19 social distancing concerns,” according to Fulton County Elections.
Abernathy Towers, a senior center that normally doubles as a voting precinct, also won’t be a precinct this spring due to “senior COVID-19 safety.”
They are among 38 Fulton precincts that will need to temporarily close for the June primary. Those voters will have to switch other precincts -- most of them, more than a mile away -- if they vote on June 9.
The inconvenience likely won’t be the only issue in an age of social distancing.
"The fewer polling sites you have, the longer the lines are going to be, the more likely people are going to have to stand around other people for extended periods of time," said Ronnie Martin, a Fulton County voter who has been critical of the state's election systems.
Voters have the option of early-voting starting next week – or using absentee ballots. The secretary of state is sending absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state – and more than a million have applied.
But the absentee ballots also have issues. The inner envelope required by state law to ensure ballot secrecy has been replaced with a folded sleeve due to an error with a contractor.
And the primary date on the absentee ballots is incorrect.
The secretary of state has spent more than a million dollars on TV ads reminding voters that the primary date has changed. The ad shows the old primary date -- May 19, and uses animation to fix the date to June 9.
Officials think it has worked.
"With the success of the (absentee ballot) program so far, with over 200,000 people having already voted, and 1.15 million ballots already out the door, we get a feeling most of these (ballots) have already been voted and they're going to be voted just fine," said Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State's office.
Martin points out that many voters will be casting absentee ballots for the first time. She is among the Georgia voters asking a federal judge to order the state to delay the primary in order to send out corrected instructions and dates.
"I think when people fill out their ballots, they need to have a piece of paper in front of them that tells them what the date is and what the rules are," Martin said.
A hearing is scheduled Thursday.
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