There’s less than a month to go before Election Day but for those who can’t wait to cast their ballot, early voting begins Monday and runs through the end of the month.
Early voters can cast a ballot at either the Nowell Recreation Center in Monroe, which will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at Meridian Park in Loganville, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday.
Jenni Phipps, director of elections for Walton County, said early voting is a great way for people to try and beat the rush before Election Day, especially for a presidential race expected to bring out a possible record turnout. Nearly 80 percent of registered voters in Walton County voted in 2016, when Donald Trump won locally in a landslide, and turnout could be even greater this year.
“I think the lines will be long on Election Day,” Phipps said. “Early voting can help with that.”
There will also be one day of Saturday voting on Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at both locations.
Phipps said masks are not required to enter the early voting locations but social distancing will be enforced, with the 10 voting machines in Loganville and 12 in Monroe spaced out to separate voters due to the ongoing pandemic.
Meanwhile, Phipps said the other voting machines, of which the county has 265 in total, will undergo maintenance before the big day.
“We’re in the process of testing them right now,” Phipps said.
And for those who don’t want to get even that close to other people in the time of COVID-19, there is still the option to request an absentee ballot, a choice which has surged in popularity this year over ordinary election cycles.
“We have sent out probably over 12,000 absentee ballots,” Phipps said. “Normally we’d send out probably around 2,000.”
A voter can request an absentee ballot for any reason, but the mail-in vote must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
“There’s no date they need to wait for before it can count,” Phipps said. “They can mail it in as soon as it’s ready. The sooner the better to make sure we get it in time.”
And Phipps told absentee voters not to worry if they make a mistake on the ballot.
“If they damage or make a mistake on the ballot, they can write “SPOILED” across it and mail it in to get a new one,” Phipps said.
Prompt voting is recommended to make sure everything is taken care of before Election Day.
“We also have a dropbox for people to drop in an absentee ballot if they don’t wait to wait and mail it,” Phipps said. “There’s one at the Board of Elections office and we’re hoping to have another one set up at Meridian Park by Monday.”
The Board of Elections is now located at 1110 E. Spring St., Suite 100, Monroe, after moving from the Hammond Drive location early this year.
Voters cannot turn in an absentee ballot at the early voting precincts. Such ballots can be cancelled at the site if the voter choose to cast an early ballot instead, but otherwise they must be mailed or deposited in the official dropbox.
Phipps said voters who choose to mail in their absentee ballot can track it online at Georgia.ballottrax.net. Absentee ballots can be requested at the Georgia Secretary of State website at https://ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov/.
And, of course, voters can wait to cast their ballot until Election Day, on Nov. 3. If voters are not sure of their voting precinct, especially after several Walton County precincts changed voting locations this summer, they can find out where to vote by visiting the My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.
The important thing, Phipps said, is to get out and vote, no matter how one chooses to do it.