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Newton Board of Elections works to reduce in-person voting wait time
Chairman says check-in stations doubled to speed up process in wake of historic turnout
Advance voting 1
In this file photo, voters stand in a line that circled the Newton County Administration Building Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on the first day of the 16-day advance voting period before the Nov. 3, 2020, General Election. - photo by Taylor Beck

COVINGTON, Ga. — In light of a historic early voting turnout, the Newton County Board of Elections and Registration is working to shorten lines and reduce the wait time.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Board Chairman Philip Johnson said Newton County has mailed out more than 17,761 absentee ballots and had 2,508 voters cast ballots since advance in-person voting began Monday.

"As a result of that unprecedented level of early in-person voting, we experienced long lines and lengthy wait times," Johnson said. "A number of factors contributed to this, including the large number of voters who had requested an absentee ballot but decided to vote in person, an overwhelmed Secretary of State website and database, and the Election Board’s underestimate of the full impact of the extraordinary voter turnout efforts."

The biggest delay has come from the check-in process, Johnson said, which involves the voter's registration and precinct is confirmed on the Secretary of State's database. It also must be confirmed if the voter has already cast a ballot or not. Once checked in, the voter can proceed to a voting machine — Johnson said there seems to be plenty of those to handle the turnout.

Johnson said the Secretary of State's office has worked all week to improve the speed of its database response, and he's noticed those improvements. But to further help the situation, Johnson said Newton County has doubled the number of check-in stations.

Voters can vote in person at the Newton County Administration Building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, this week and the week of Oct. 19 through Oct. 23, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26, through Friday, Oct. 30.  

On Saturday, Oct. 24, voters can cast their ballots from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A second early voting location will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week of Oct. 26-30 at the Porter Memorial Library, on located on Highway 212 across from Denny Dobbs Park.

For those planning to vote by absentee ballot, Johnson provided the following recommendations:

• If you have not yet applied for an absentee ballot do so now either through the Secretary of State’s website or by requesting one from the Newton County Board of Election in the Newton County Administration Building. Our phone number is 770-784-2055.

• If you have already received your absentee ballot, complete it now and return it as soon as possible by:

    1. Mailing it to the Newton County Board of Elections; or
    2. Using the Drop Box at the Newton County Sheriff’s Westside Precinct at 3612 Salem Road, Covington, Georgia; or
    3. Using the Drop Box at the North entrance of the Newton County Administration Building at 1113 Usher Street, Covington, Georgia. 

For those who don't vote early or by absentee ballot, they can still vote at their regular assigned precinct from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3.

If voters receive an absentee ballot but decide to vote in person, Johnson said to bring the absentee ballot when coming to vote. He said doing so would speed up the cancellation of the absentee ballot and move voters in and out of the polling place much quicker.

"We should all be excited with the number of voters participating in this election," Johnson said. "If you have not yet voted, please make a plan to vote. You have options on how you cast your ballot, and you need to plan the one which best fits your schedule. Know how, where and when you plan on voting. If you have questions about where to vote check the MyVoter page on the Secretary of State website or call the Newton County Elections office."