Residents will soon be able to cast their ballots in person for candidates running in the general primary election on Tuesday, May 24.
The Dawson County Board of Elections and Voter Registration convened for a regular meeting on April 19, a little over a month before the big day.
Advance in-person voting will be allowed from May 2-20 at the Dawson County Board of Elections Office, located at 96 Academy Ave. in Dawsonville.
Polls there will be open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May 7 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 25 by 5 p.m.
Individuals who are either elderly, disabled or military members need to request absentee-by-mail ballots each election year in order to get ballots that way for the rest of the year. The absentee request window continues from now until May 13 by 5 p.m.
A request form is available at: https://securemyabsenteeballot.sos.ga.gov/s/. Applicants must use their license or another form of specified identification as notated on the form. Ballots must be returned to the Dawson County Elections Office no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Ballots can either be mailed with sufficient postage or delivered to the office in person by the voter or someone that’s been given written authorization to deliver it.
Starting May 2, people delivering their advance ballots in person can deposit them in a drop box inside of the elections office.
On Election Day, the voting precincts in Dawson County will be as follows:
West: Fire Station Road at Hubbard Road
Central: Dawson County Elections Office
East: Fire Station 2 on Liberty Drive (next to Tractor Supply)
If you are unsure about your day-of voting location, you can check online at https://www.dawsoncounty.org/elections or call the Dawson County Elections Office at (706) 344-3640. People who want to see a sample ballot can go to https://mvp.sos.ga.gov/s/.
Like Georgia’s other counties, Dawson County will hold off on implementation of the GaRVIS voter registration system due to software issues during rollout, according to Board of Elections and Registration Director Glenda Ferguson.
She said the glitches were partially access-based, as the system limited people who could enter data to those in certain roles or designations. The decreased accessibility made it so Ferguson and her colleagues “just couldn't do voter registration.”
And so, about a week after starting with GaRVIS, the local elections office paused the switchover before a large amount of voter data could be transferred over to it.
The Secretary of State’s office acquired GaRVIS earlier this year to take the place of ElectioNet or “ENet.” During the 2020 voting season, ENet went down due to processing the extraordinary influx of in-person and absentee voters, and outages exacerbated long wait lines as a result.
Dawson County was able to patch the immediate strain at the time by using a third-party, web-based software called EZVote, but that temporary approach had its downside, too, as it didn’t instantly give credit for voting like ENet does,
“We purchased EZ Vote as a third-party software and we kept rolling,” Ferguson said. “As long as we had the internet, we kept rolling along. We had to work late hours at night to give credit for voting because EZ Vote doesn’t immediately give credit for voting like ENet does.”
Ferguson elaborated that she expects the new software launch will be revisited statewide after the June runoff election in Georgia.
While she admitted that ENet can still be slow at times, she credited it as better for smaller counties in the meantime.
Board members also discussed the audit logs that citizens have requested several times as part of open records requests since 2020. These logs record every keystroke and move made at a given image-casting or ICC machine.
In response to Vice-Chairman Dale Holland, Ferguson said that while some information is not able to be shown, people making the requests may be looking for who’s accessing the machines or exact numbers if the voting counts seem off.
“If we get an open records request, have we got that [data] readily available so we don't have to search for it?” , said board member Dan Pichon.
They back each log up twice, via the ICC and a jump drive, Ferguson added. Also, she floated the idea of starting to copy over the log sheets of who’s processing what for record keeping purposes as well.
“It’s not that anything’s trying to be held back or not disclosed…we want to be as transparent as possible,” she said.
Two citizens, Anna Gunning and Beth Mercure, shared their concerns about voting security after listening to the elections board. Gunning pointed out that she’s heard, both personally and when asking other elections officials, that some people are getting mailed multiple others’ voter registration cards.
Further discussion yielded that that could be due to reasons such as a military member leaving a last-known address or if a previous house was at a property.
For inactive people whose cards were sent to an outdated address, voting would make them active.
If they come to vote, they’re inactive, and that’s going to make them active,” Ferguson said. “But we’re going to put a challenge on that…because there are different challenges that could be made according to code. We have a fiduciary duty as an elections board that if we know that something’s not right or accurate, we challenge that.”
The county also coordinates with city elections officials to ensure that, say, tenants whose landlords have discontinued city utilities can still vote, provided they respond to a challenge by bringing proof of residency to vote. Typically, it takes eight to nine years for someone to fall off of the election roll, Ferguson said.
In that respect, Mercure asked about deceased individuals still being on the voter rolls. When county elections officials identify such a person, said Ferguson, they’re labeled as “canceled for deceased” in the registration system.
They used to have to wait three to six months to receive vital statistics data before being able to change someone’s status. But now, the elections office can use obituaries and the now more-frequently updated vital stats to make a determination.
Gunning also mentioned double voting, since “not all but a lot” of the homes near hers on Burnt Mountain are second homes.
“If any person does that and if it’s found out, it’s a felony offense,” Ferguson said.
The director did recognize, though, that the mistake, though technically fraudulent, sometimes isn’t intentional, and people just want to make sure that they can vote.
She added that Georgia’s system will not allow for a person to be a registered voter in two of the state’s counties. Although Georgia belongs to an organization called the Electronic Registration Information Center, it doesn’t automatically cancel duplicate registrations like other states.
“I think it’s something we need to look into doing…it would be so nice if we had even a
requirement where the states connected with each other and talked,” Ferguson said.