Even though the coronavirus health crisis forced some changes to the early voting process in Hall County, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said Friday the process has been fairly smooth so far.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21, a total of 591 voters had cast in-person ballots for the June 9, 2020 General Primary/Presidential Preference Primary.
"It is a low turnout compared to previous elections, but that is in relation to the number of increased absentee-by-mail applications that we have seen," Wurtz said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has made this election unlike any other she's ever seen. "Really, there's no precedent for this."
Voters who have turned up to cast ballots in person have not experienced long wait times, according to Wurtz.
"It's not taking very long, [but] there is a difference in the voter who is coming in and is not canceling a ballot," Wurtz said. "We do have some voters that have ordered a ballot by mail...who have now shown up at the polling place to cancel that absentee-by-mail ballot, so the poll worker does have to take some additional steps to verify that that vote has not yet been recorded in our office."
Aside from that process, Wurtz estimated the voting time for each voter is averaging about 10 minutes.
Wurtz said there is no backlog of absentee ballot requests, although her staff continues to process requests that arrive daily.
For the first time ever, voters are casting ballots at Gainesville Exploration Academy at 1145 McEver Road. The county, in cooperation with Gainesville City Schools, moved early voting to the elementary school from the Hall County Government Center to allow for additional space for the voting set-up. Wurtz said she's heard nothing but positive feedback about changing the location for early voting.
"The voters have been very, very pleased with this site, particularly because it's made it easier to enforce the social distancing guidelines, and I think that has been very important to voters," Wurtz said. "The one thing that they have commented on when they come through is 'we love the social distancing, we love that we are visually able to see that you are sanitizing the [voting] equipment.'"
The second week of early voting will continue next week Tuesday through Friday. No early voting will occur on Monday, May 25 because of the Memorial Day holiday. During the third and final week of early voting, June 1 through June 5, voters can cast ballots at the North Hall Community Center, the East Hall Community Center and Spout Springs Library, in addition to Gainesville Exploration Academy. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations during all three weeks of early voting.
On Saturday, May 30, polls will open at the North Hall Community Center, East Hall Community Center, Spout Springs Library and Gainesville Exploration Academy as a part of statewide Saturday early voting. The hours for Saturday voting are also 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More information regarding Hall County Elections can be found here.