COVINGTON, Ga. — As the 16-day early voting period came to a close Friday, almost 45% of registered voters in Newton County already had cast their ballots.
When polls closed Friday evening, Newton County Board of Elections and Registration Chairman Philip Johnson said 35,067 residents had voted — 20,867 ballots were cast in person and 14,125 ballots were accepted as absentee. Seventy-five ballots were military EBD.
Average daily turnout in the last week of advance in-person voting nearly doubled the average daily count of the first two weeks.
From Oct. 12-24, 11,363 voters cast their ballot early in person, averaging 1,033 per day. From Oct. 26-Oct. 30, 9,504 voters cast their ballots early, averaging 1,901 per day.
Since Oct. 26, voters were able to cast their ballot at two different locations — the Newton County Administration Building and Porter Memorial Library.
The final day, Friday, turned out to be the biggest of any day in the advance voting period, garnering 2,052 ballots.
On Thursday, after remnants of Hurricane Zeta swept across Newton County and left hundreds without power, Johnson said the county was fortunate it did not interfere with the voting process.
“We had concerns late (Wednesday) night, so we developed a backup plan to make sure voters were safe,” he said. “However the rain and winds cleared out by our opening time this morning. We did not lose power.”
Thursday drew the third highest daily turnout with 1,844 ballots cast.
Even with such great turnout for advance voting, Johnson said Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, likely would still draw thousands.
“I expect we will have close to 50% of our active registered voters who will have voted in-person and absentee before Nov. 3, so the question is will this large early turnout cannibalize the Election Day turnout?” Johnson said. “I have no reason to believe that is true.
“There is enormous energy out there. We have had a significant turnout of first time voters. So I suspect we can expect a heavy turnout next Tuesday and the attendant lines at some of our polling locations.”
Johnson said every registered voter will be given the opportunity to vote, even if they’re standing in line at 7 p.m. when the polls are supposed to close.
As for getting same-night election results, Johnson said he remains confident that Newton County can make it happen.
“I am very confident that we will publish our results during the evening of Nov. 3, 2020,” he said. “Our staff and temporary workers have been processing absentee ballots since Oct. 19. Unless some unforeseen equipment failure or other such event occurs, we anticipate announcing results on the evening of Nov. 3.”
When heading to the polls on Election Day, remember to follow CDC guidelines to keep yourself and others around you safe as you cast your vote.
In conjunction with CDC guidelines, Johnson said poll workers would be strongly encouraging the use of masks and maintain social distancing.
The CDC suggests voters to try and stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) apart of other people, “especially those not wearing a mask,” and to “take care” when touching surfaces by washing your hands and/or using 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Johnson previously told The Covington News that hand sanitizer would be made available at the polls for all voters.
News Editor Tom Spigolon contributed to this report.