MOULTRIE, Ga. – Though Monday was recognized as Columbus Day, the citizens in Colquitt County – and all of Georgia – had a different reason to make note of Oct. 12. And make note they did.
In unprecedented numbers, Colquitt Countians are getting their votes in early for the Nov. 3 general election. Monday was the first day for early voting, and in a scene more associated with a major department store sale, people were at the courthouse annex door waiting for the 8 a.m. opening, according to county registrar Paula McCullough.
By 3 p.m. Monday, McCullough was able to report 465 votes cast in a format that is technically known as absentee in-person. She said that is more voters than they would get in any given week of early voting in previous years, even in those with a presidential election.
Early in-person voting for the 2020 general election continues through Oct. 30. There is one location in Moultrie for early in-person voting – Room 201 in the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex at 9 S. Main St. It is open each weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Oct. 30. There is also one Saturday open for voting 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at the same location.
While several local offices up for election were decided in the June primary, the 2020 election season is significant in that voters will decide who serves as President of the United States for the next four years. The main contenders are incumbent Donald Trump on the Republican side and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen is also on the ballot, and 16 people qualified to be write-in candidates, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
Georgia’s representation in the U.S. Senate is also to be decided as, in an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, both seats are on the same ballot. Incumbent Republican David Perdue is being challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff and Libertarian Shane Hazel.
Twenty people are on the ballot for the Senate seat formerly held by Johnny Isakson, and another candidate qualified as a write-in candidate. This is a special election to complete Isakson’s term that began after the 2016 election. Gov. Brian Kemp named Kelly Loeffler to the seat last December, and she’s among those running to finish the rest of Isakson’s term.
Democrat Lindsay Holliday is challenging incumbent Republican Austin Scott for the U.S. House of Representatives District 8 seat, which includes Colquitt County. One write-in candidate has also qualified.
Georgia’s Public Service Commission has two three-person races in Districts 1 and 4, and there are two Georgia constitutional amendments and one referendum to decide.
But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic put a whole new spin on the election, from Georgia’s primary being rescheduled from March to June to the increased emphasis on the more traditional type of absentee voting. The Colquitt County registrar’s office reported sending out more than 4,000 absentee ballots for the June primary; as of Friday, Oct. 9, McCullough reported 3,594 requests, 1,104 of which were already returned by the voters.
For the general election, Colquitt County's registrar's office began sending absentee ballots Sept. 18 to voters who requested one. A voter can still request one from the Colquitt County Registrar’s Office or the Georgia Secretary of State’s website (sos.ga.gov). Call 616-7056 for details. The deadline to make a request is Oct. 30.
Voters can cast these ballots by mail or by returning them to the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex, which has a secured box outside the building especially for these ballots. McCullough said ballots can also be turned in to the registrar’s office inside the annex.
McCullough also stated that these absentee ballots must be received by Election Day. A federal appeals court on Oct. 2 overturned a lower court’s ruling that had extended the deadline for ballots that had been postmarked by Election Day.