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Newton elections board considers 3 advance voting sites for Senate runoffs
Awaiting directions from Secretary of State before doing presidential recount
Newton County election board
From left, elections director Angela Mantle meets with the Newton County Board of Elections and Registrations Nov. 9 before the board voted to certify the results of the Nov. 3 General and Special Election. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County’s elections board on Monday, Nov. 9, discussed how it will participate in the state’s presidential ballot recount and the January U.S. Senate runoff as it voted to certify last week’s General and Special Election.

The board voted to investigate having three advance voting locations available throughout the three-week period before the Jan. 5 runoff election for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

It is considering offering in-person advance voting sites with 16 ballot-marking devices at each location beginning Dec. 14 at the Newton County Administration Building in downtown Covington and the Newton County Library in east Covington.

Chairman Phil Johnson proposed offering three locations after seeing heavier-than-anticipated demand at the two locations it offered prior to the Nov. 3 election.

“That should allow us to avoid those long lines,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he is working to secure a third location at Zion Baptist Church on Brown Bridge Road in western Newton. 

He said its size would allow voters to wait in line inside a building rather than outside in the elements as was the case at the Porter Memorial Library on Hwy. 212. 

“The property owner has to agree,” he said.

Election director Angela Mantle also will need to find 32 workers to staff the voting locations for three weeks during the Christmas holidays, he said.

Officials did not anticipate the heavier-then-anticipated turnout at the Porter Library location because it had seen relatively low turnouts when it was used previously, Johnson said.

He added that election officials would need to find ways to secure the voting equipment at the library and third site.

Democratic board member Kelly Robinson said she wanted the elections office to see if it could provide the west Newton location all three weeks rather than only one week in which Porter Library was available.

Republican board member Dustin Thompson asked Johnson to find an alternative location if church officials will not allow its use. 

Thompson suggested the Newton County Sheriff’s Office’s Westside precinct but Johnson said it likely would be too small.    

In addition, the Newton office may need to conduct a separate runoff election Dec. 1 in a Public Service Commission race between Republican incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Democrat Daniel Blackman, Mantle said.

• Also Monday, Johnson said Newton would participate in the recount of the ballots cast in the county but “we do not yet have guidance from the (Secretary of State) on the procedure.”

He said once the Newton board receives the Secretary’s guidance it would give notice to both political parties. 

“We would want monitors from the political parties and participation by the board members,” Johnson said.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said he likely will order a recount of Georgia’s votes for president in the Nov. 3 election because only about 10,500 votes separate Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump out of 5 million votes cast.

• Board members voted to certify the Newton County election, including the General Election of candidates for federal, state and local offices, three statewide questions and the county Special Election in which the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was defeated.

A total of 54,445 Newton Countians participated in the election either by voting absentee, in-person during the advance voting period, or in-person on Election Day at any of the 22 precincts.

Turnout for the election — which is the percentage of all registered voters who cast ballots — was 68.92%.