County voter requests for absentee ballots are in record-setting territory- and still climbing- in advance of June’s primary, matching robust numbers reported by the Secretary of State’s office
Cobb County’s Elections and Registration Director Janine Eveler said an estimated 150,000 absentee applications had arrived at her office through day’s end Wednesday and that just over 99,000 had been processed. She said that compared to a previous high-water mark of 44,719 applications for the 2008 general election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Thursday that more than one million requests had been received statewide, with some 700 ,000 ballots already sent out by local election officials.
Eveler said applications are still arriving at the rate of some 2,500 a day and that processing will continue until June 5, the last day Georgia voters can request an absentee ballot.
Raffensperger earlier delayed the combined presidential and general primary until June 9 amid COVID-19 concerns, with officials urging voters to weigh in by mail as a safety measure. He also mailed absentee applications to some 6.9 million Georgia registered voters. Before that plan solidified, Cobb officials decided to mail absentee applications to all voters aged 60 and older, creating some confusion.
Eveler said while Coronavirus fears played a role in the explosion of requests, she puts more weight on the convenience factor. “I think people were saying, ‘hey, this came in the mail, I do want to vote, so let’s send it in, ‘ “ she said.
Cobb County GOP chairman Jason Shepherd agrees, noting that some Cobb voters may have actually gotten more than two applications as historically a number of candidates have sent residents absentee ballot request forms as well.
He said strong grassroots interest figures into the mix as well. Shepherd said 3,804 ballots were cast in the March 24 GOP presidential primary before it was postponed, contending that that number of potential votes “when Donald Trump is the only one on the ballot is extraordinary.”
Cobb Democratic Chair Jacquelyn Bettadapur said her running tally shows that as of Thursday, 43,613 Democratic ballots had been mailed to Cobb voters. She said that compares to 41,540 Democrats who voted in the 2018 General Primary.
“We have seen increased engagement since 2016,” she said, with local party participation climbing following the presidential election. She said for example the Cobb party’s first meeting in 2017 drew about 400 people, compared to a usual crowd of around 50. She said with continued heightened interest and the party doing more voter education, “I think that’s going to produce a pretty high turnout this time.”
Early voting begins May 18 for those still wishing to cast their votes in person but the elections chief cautioned that social distancing requirements could result in longer-than-usual lines. She added that masks, gloves, wipes and other protective gear is being put in place for poll workers, many of whom are seniors and considered higher-risk.
She also said that “a few” poll workers have decided to opt out of working the June 9 vote, but that finding replacements should not be an issue.