Monday marks the deadline for latecomers to join the nearly 130,000 Columbus residents already registered to vote in Georgia’s Nov. 3 General Election.
That means it’s also the last day anyone who may have been dropped from the voter rolls to register again, so those who have not voted in any recent election should check their registration status.
Georgia and the nation are headed toward a historic, hotly contested election that will decide not only who will be president of the United States, but who will represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate, and who will be Muscogee County’s next sheriff, along with other contests.
Voters who are not among the more than 25,000 Columbus residents requesting mail-in absentee ballots will have multiple opportunities to vote in person leading into Election Day, when 25 neighborhood voting precincts will open with special precautions aimed at stemming the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
To answer voters’ questions about the process, the Ledger-Enquirer met with Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration, for this question and answer report:
How can Georgia voters check their registration status?
They can check it online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page,” www.mvp.sos.ga.gov, where they type in their name, county of residence and date of birth. The website also has sample ballots voters can view. Columbus residents without online access may check their registration by calling the local elections office at 706-653-4392.
Who may have been dropped from the voter rolls if they’ve not voted in recent elections?
Voter rolls periodically are culled to remove people who died or moved away. Anyone who has not voted since 2014, or renewed a Georgia driver’s license, which automatically registers them to vote, or taken some other action such as a name or address change with the elections office, should check their registration.
How can people register to vote?
They can go online to the “My Voter Page,” or to registertovote.sos.ga.gov; or go to the county elections office in the Columbus City Services Center off Macon Road at 3111 Citizens Way to fill out a voter registration form. The forms can be downloaded from a link on the elections office website, www.columbusga.gov/elections. Voters also can register when obtaining a Georgia driver’s license or state ID at license bureaus operated by the state Department of Driver Services.
What common mistakes may people make trying to register?
Most commonly, voters believe that the elections office is notified when they complete a change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service. Election workers are not automatically notified of a postal address change, and that does not substitute for registering to vote.
When and where can Columbus residents vote early?
Early voting will begin Oct. 12 and end Oct. 30. Columbus’ early voting sites will follow different schedules, with one poll open the entire time and others opening during the last week of advance voting. Here are their schedules:
- The City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way, will be open for voting 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, including weekends and the Columbus Day holiday, Oct. 12-30.
- The Civic Center Ice Rink, 400 4th St., will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 25-30.
- The Columbus Convention and Trade Center, 801 Front Ave., will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 26-30.
- The Columbus Health Department, 5601 Veterans Parkway, will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 25-30.
- The Shirley B. Winston Recreation Center, 5025 Steam Mill Road, will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 25-30.
Voters should remember to bring a government-issued photo ID when they go to the polls to vote early or on Election Day.
What precautions will ensure voter safety during the pandemic?
“We’re expecting a historic turnout for this election,” Boren said, “and conducting an election in the middle of a pandemic requires us to have poll workers protected, have voters protected, provide adequate spacing and adequate equipment.” Poll workers will wear masks, disinfect the voting machines between uses, and mark spaces where voters line up to ensure they maintain social distancing, she said. Though poll workers will be required to wear masks, and voters will be encouraged to, no voter legally can be turned away for not wearing one.
On Election Day, how will Columbus prevent the long lines and delays that required extending voting hours during the June 9 primaries at its Canaan Baptist Church precinct?
The problem there was that a mix up in voter data from the state switched some Canaan voters’ information with voters assigned to the precinct at Holsey Monumental CME Church on Buena Vista Road, with the result that voters from Canaan were sent to Holsey and then sent back. That issue with the switched “data sets” has been fixed, and neither precinct had similar problems during an Aug. 11 special election runoff for Columbus Council District 4, Boren said.
What circumstances may necessitate voters filing provisional ballots?
Boren said these conditions may require that:
- If a voter who was issued a mail-in absentee ballot decides instead to vote in person, but does not bring the absentee ballot to the precinct to show it wasn’t cast, and the poll worker is unable to reach the elections office to cancel the absentee ballot.
- If a voter doesn’t have the required identification.
- If a voter’s name is not on the rolls, but the voter believes he or she is registered.
- If the voter goes to the wrong precinct and does not have time to make it to the correct polling site to vote.
How are provisional ballots handled for tabulation?
After the election, the elections office staff examines provisional ballots and compares them to registration information, to be verified for acceptance or rejection. The staff then makes a recommendation to the county elections board, which ultimately decides while certifying the vote whether accept or reject those ballots.
What are the Election Day rules for voters arriving near the 7 p.m. poll closing?
If voters remain in line at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, a poll worker will go to the end of that line and turn away anyone arriving late. Those who are in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
For residents who’ve not voted recently on Election Day, where are the precincts, and which were the last to change locations?
Here is a list of the city’s 25 voting precincts:
- Wynnton United Methodist Church, 2412 Wynnton Road.
- The Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.
- The Shirley Winston Recreation Center, 5025 Steam Mill Road, having moved from St. John AME Church.
- Britt David Baptist Church, 2801 W. Britt David Road.
- St. Peter United Methodist Church, 6507 Moon Road.
- Cornerstone Church of God, 7701 Lloyd Road.
- Columbus Technical College, 928 Manchester Expressway.
- St. Mark United Methodist Church, 6795 Whitesville Road.
- Wynnbrook Baptist Church, 500 River Knoll Way.
- Cusseta Road Church of Christ, 3013 Cusseta Road.
- Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 1953 Torch Hill Road.
- Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4400 Old Cusseta Road.
- Faith Tabernacle Community Church, 1603 Floyd Road.
- Canaan Baptist Church, 2835 Branton Woods Drive, having moved from Fort Middle School.
- Holsey Monumental CME Church, 6028 Buena Vista Road, having moved from Rothschild Middle School.
- The Church of Jesus Christ LDS, 4400 Reese Road.
- St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2101 Wildwood Ave.
- North Highland Church, 7300 Whittlesey Blvd.
- St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 4980 Hancock Road.
- Salvation Army Church, 5201 Warm Springs Road.
- First African Baptist Church, 901 Fifth Ave.
- Epworth United Methodist Church, 2400 Devonshire Drive.
- Gallops Senior Center, 1212 15th St.
- Edgewood Baptist Church, 3564 Forrest Road.
- Psalmond Recreation Center, 6550 Psalmond Road.
More information on the Nov. 3 General Election can be found at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, sos.ga.gov.