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BECK: Election change-up a slow pitch indeed
Advance voting 1
Voters stand in a line that circled the Newton County Administration Building Monday, Oct. 12, on the first day of the 16-day advance voting period before the Nov. 3 General Election. - photo by Taylor Beck

This article is an opinion.

It isn’t news that the current voting process nationwide is under fire.

After the Nov. 3 General Election, it’s all we’ve talked about.

In the wake of alleged fraud accusations, some people are clamoring to do away with early voting and absentee/mail-in voting and revert back to in-person, Election Day voting only.

From different corners of the country, I’ve read about rumblings for the voting process to take place all online but, if we’re being serious, that will never happen. If you think the amount of fraud claims are bad now, online would be worse.

I’m not sure how I feel about reverting back to the traditional way of voting. I think allowing early voting and absentee/mail-in voting are great options to allow everyone an equal opportunity to vote and cut down wati times, but I think it increases the opportunity for illegal ballots to be cast. However, doing away with those won’t fix all of the wrongdoing in our elections either. There’s likely been some type of voter fraud or illegal activity happening in every election since our nation’s inception.

While our state’s legislators are calling for a special session to address voting issues, major election procedural changes — outside of potentially adding a photo ID component to absentee voting — are highly unlikely. 

As the Senate runoffs approach and the news of Newton County expanding its list of early voting locations, I can’t help but draw comparisons between my new home in Georgia and my former home in Alabama.

I’ve been here about six months now, but the concept of early voting still seems surreal. In Alabama, unless you cast an absentee ballot by mail, you don’t vote early. You vote on Election Day and that’s that.

Early voting is something I imagine Alabama introducing in the future. It would be useful in larger cities, but it won’t be needed where I grew up.

I’ll never forget times as a child when my mom would go by to vote on our way to school. Our polling location was at the Mt. Hebron Volunteer Fire Department, and still is today. We’d roll up and park, and I’d have to sit in the car while she voted. There was hardly ever a wait. In fact, I doubt many more than 200 people have ever turned out to vote in that area.

I’ll never forget when I cast my first ballot in the 2012 elections. As my mother did, I went to vote early in the morning before my classes began at Snead State Community College. 

I had expectations for voting. I thought it was supposed to be something you take so seriously that nobody would be talking. It would be as if you were taking the SAT and needed to score a 1200 or else the opposing party would win it all.

When I walked in, I expected to see these big voting machines like the ones I had seen on the news, but I saw none. Instead there were maybe half a dozen round tables with three chairs around each one and several pens scattered on top — kind of gross in hindsight. Thanks, COVID. 

There were also no dividers for privacy or anything of the sort. The poll workers asked for my license, made me write my signature by my name printed in what looked like a teacher’s roll book and then gave me a paper ballot to fill out. They told me to go have a seat, fill out the ballot and then give it to the poll worker standing beside the ballot counter.

When I sat down, I immediately recognized two or three people that came in after me. That’s when voting quickly became a social event. 

A family friend sat down next to me with his ballot and we carried on a conversation, all while I was trying to make my presidential pick. To be honest, there was a point where I nearly forgot I was supposed to be voting, not socilizing. And when I realized how close he was sitting next to me, I felt like I needed to cover up my ballot, or else it would’ve been deemed cheating.

After my lovely wife, Kelly, and I moved to the Nixon Chapel area, just a few miles away from Mt. Hebron, the voting process was the exact same. No machines and no wait. Only paper ballots, round tables with a plethora of pens and a little small town conversation.

Yeah. Voting in Alabama for me was quite different from how we vote here in Newton County, and that’s OK, as long as everyone is given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

Taylor Beck is the editor and publisher of The Covington News. He can be reached at tbeck@covnews.com