More poll workers. More locked drop boxes. And more extension cords.
Months of preparations by county election officials and political party activists paid off making Election Day from Savannah to Brunswick and across Coastal Georgia a drama-free experience.
Before polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, at least 42% of registered voters had cast their ballots in Chatham County. In Glynn County, more than 54% of registered voters had either sent absentee ballots in or voted early. That meant fewer lines in the polling precincts, and fewer problems than residents experienced in June during the party primaries.
Earlier in the summer, lines swelled as did anxiety due to glitches in the state’s expensive new electronic voting machines, a lack of technical support for those machines and smaller than normal corps of poll workers on the day of voting. Several experienced election hands decided not to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past 16 weeks, a multi-layered effort has been operating across Coastal Georgia to ensure that didn’t happen again.
— Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office worked with business and nonprofit organizations such as GeorgiaForward, GaVotingWorks, and others to ensure enhanced training for poll workers and implement new procedures to handle early voting.
— The League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia raised money to put more secure ballot boxes for absentee ballots around Chatham County, helping ensure easy access for residents who wanted to avoid lines and vote early in the days leading up to Nov. 3.
— The Americans for Civil Liberties Union helped place poll watchers and legal monitors at precincts across Coastal Georgia to handle any allegations of voter suppression or untoward behavior at voting places.
In some cases, minor glitches started off the day. On Tybee Island, for example, some ballot scanners were not working, leaving early morning voters worried that their votes would not be counted in the proper fashion. The issue was cleared up within a short time, precinct workers said.
Commuters on Savannah’s Southside, meanwhile, queued up before precincts opened, causing a short-lived flurry of concern about how poll workers would handle the crush of voters at the Progressive Recreation Center. Other precincts also had lines of early morning voters.
Some voters reported waits of an hour in line. By around 9:30 a.m., however, the flow of voters in Chatham County was smooth and efficient.
Voting rights activists stayed in touch through the day on Facebook and by text message, comparing notes about different areas of Coastal Georgia. By mid-afternoon, no one reported seeing any problems of note.
Now, what remains is whether a crush of after-work voters will appear to cast ballots. In 2018, for example, precincts in Pooler remained open past 10 p.m. to handle latecomers.
Georgia election law says that any voter who is in line by 7 p.m. — the time polls are scheduled to close — can not be turned away until they successfully cast their ballot.