Early voting knocked offline in several counties after storm blows through

    After the remnants of Tropical Storm Zeta blew through Georgia Thursday morning, 15 counties planned to open their early voting locations late, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder (Oct. 15, 2020)

    Tropical storm Zeta’s heavy winds caused power outages across Georgia early Thursday morning, including at some of the state’s early voting sites, but the lost access outages will likely not dampen the state’s record early voting numbers, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

    As of 10 a.m. Thursday, 15 counties were opening their early voting locations late, Raffensperger said. Three of those counties have reported power outages in at least one location, and all six of Douglas County’s early voting locations were without power.

    Raffensperger said his office is working with Georgia Power to get the electricity back on as quickly as possible so the state’s new electronic touch screen voting machines can count ballots at the sidelined locations.

    “We’re still assessing the situation, and obviously some counties will be delaying early voting this morning, but we don’t see there will be an overall impact to voting at this time because we still have early voting for the balance of today and tomorrow and obviously the full election on Tuesday,” he said.

    Georgia is required to hold three weeks of early voting. The locations without power will likely make up for the lost time by extending their hours into the evening.

    “Just like when we have on Election Day, if we have some glitch that happens early in the morning, then typically we extend out the voting day,” Raffensperger said. “We want to make sure everyone gets the hours to vote.”

    Wednesday set another record for turnout, with over 170,000 Georgians casting a ballot in person and another 50,000 absentee ballots accepted, bringing the total number of voters in the 2020 election to over 3.4 million so far, Raffensperger said.

    “We anticipate we will continue to see record turnout increase today, in spite of the storm,” he added.

    Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, could bring in another 2 million votes for the state. Including expected heavy turnout on Thursday and Friday, the final two days of early voting, Georgians could cast more than 6 million ballots this year, up from 4.1 million in 2016.

    Those who plan to vote in the final days should plan to wait, remember to bring a valid photo ID and be prepared to show grace to the poll workers, Raffensperger said.

    The more than 400,000 Georgians who still have unreturned absentee ballots can still turn them in, but it’s too late for the post office, Raffensperger said.

    “You need to find a drop box in your county or your county registrar’s office and drop it off at this point,” he said. “Even the post office has told us don’t risk it.”

    People with an absentee ballot can vote in person, but will need to fill out paperwork voiding it and are asked to bring the ballot to their polling place with them.

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.