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Newton elections board hoping for same-night results Nov. 3
Second advance voting location opens today, Oct. 26, at Porter Memorial Library in west Newton
Voters line up
Newton County advance voters line up Friday, Oct. 23, outside the Newton County Administration Building in downtown Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

Upcoming times and locations for advance voting include:

• Porter Memorial Branch Library at 6191 Hwy. 212 in Covington will be open Monday, Oct. 26, through Friday, Oct. 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Newton County Administration Building at 1113 Usher St. in Covington will continue to be an advance voting site Monday, Oct. 26, through Oct. 30, with new hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

COVINGTON, Ga. — The county’s election board chairman believes Newton will defy predictions heard elsewhere and have the local results of the Nov. 3 election the night following the closing of the polls.

And a second advance voting location was to open today in western Newton County after heavy turnout was seen at the sole location in downtown Covington during the first two weeks of advance voting before Election Day.

County Board of Elections Chairman Phil Johnson told the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Oct. 20, his board has a goal of publishing its election results the same night after the polls close at 7 p.m.

“We’re not going to be one of those places where you have to wait days to get a result from,” he told commissioners.

Afterward, Johnson said he was making the prediction based on the Elections & Registration Office already having all completed absentee ballots, received since September, scanned and ready to be counted Election Day.

“Unless we have a major systems failure, we’re going to have results that night,” Johnson said.

He added that anyone in line at their designated voting precinct on Election Day by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

County elections officials began processing absentee ballots Monday, Oct. 19. The state election board ruled in August that county election workers could begin processing but not tabulating absentee ballots two weeks and a day before Election Day Nov. 3.

HEAVY TURNOUT

Almost 19,000, or more than 24% of active Newton County voters, already had cast ballots through Thursday — 12 days before Election Day Nov. 3.

A total of 9,048 had voted in-person at the Newton County Administration Building and an additional 9,883 absentee votes had been received in the elections office at the same location by Thursday, Oct. 22, Johnson said.

He said this year’s number could exceed Newton County’s 75% turnout seen in both the 2016 and 2012 elections.

“This is going to be a turnout election,” he told commissioners.

The number of Newton County voters likely will exceed the 2016 total as well because the voter rolls have swelled by 34% compared to four years ago, he said.

The 2016 total of 58,192 registered and active voters in 2016 has increased to 78,388 in 2020, officials said.

LINE MOVING FASTER

Changes in the local office’s check-in routine and the state’s faster response to voter information requests led to increases in the daily number of in-person votes, Johnson said.

The first day total of 890 voters on Oct. 12 dipped to 746 the following day but increased daily from there, Johnson said.

It reached 1,080 by Oct. 16, and 1,064 on Monday, Oct. 19; increased again to 1,149 on Tuesday, Oct. 20; dipped to 1,128 on Wednesday, Oct. 21; and surged again to 1,261 on Thursday, Oct. 22, Johnson said.

The elections office also had received a total of 9,883 absentee ballots through Thursday, Oct. 22, he said.

The office’s original setup of only two check-in stations had created a bottleneck for voters the first two days, he said.

At the stations, county elections officials are charged with making sure voters are properly registered and have not already requested absentee ballots, Johnson said.

If they already had requested absentee ballots and did not bring them, officials were required to cancel the ballots and have voters sign affidavits, he said.

Election officials also must access the Secretary of State’s online voter information portal to certify a voter’s eligibility. The portal became overwhelmed the first two days as voters statewide poured into their counties’ advance voting locations, Johnson said.

Three- and four-hour waits were not uncommon on the first few days, he said.

Wait times then dropped considerably after Newton County officials increased to five check-in stations and the Secretary of State’s office added online capacity to its portal, Johnson said.

He said wait times of about one hour and 45 minutes were the longest seen recently — at the beginning of the day when people were already in line for the opening of the polls, Johnson said.

By 1 p.m. each day, wait times typically were about 90 minutes, he said.

“(Monday) by the end of the day our wait time was down to 55 minutes,” Johnson said.

Upcoming times and locations for advance voting include:

• Porter Memorial Branch Library at 6191 Hwy. 212 in Covington will be open Monday, Oct. 26, through Friday, Oct. 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• The administration building will continue to be an advance voting site Monday, Oct. 26, through Oct. 30, with new hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Newton County Board of Elections & Registration also is maintaining two secured lockboxes for completed absentee ballots, Johnson noted.

Lockbox locations are:

• The north entrance of the administration building at 1113 Usher St.

• The sheriff’s office’s Westside Precinct at 3612 Salem Road in the Kroger Shopping Center.

Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Election Day and must be returned to the issuing county in order to be counted.