AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Months of voting finally came to an end this week with Richmond and Columbia Counties certifying results from the Senate runoff elections.
The unprecedented election season began in the Spring of 2020. People headed to the polls for the presidential primary election. However, voting came to a halt when the pandemic began. Election boards rushed to adapt their plans to accommodate CDC guidelines, resulting in them exceeding their budgets.
“The cost of the election skyrocketed because we offered hazard pay to poll workers, put personal protective equipment in polling stations and provided more advance voting and mail-in ballots,” Lynn Bailey, the Executive Director of the Richmond County Board of Elections, says.
Bailey tells NewsChannel 6 her board budgeted $160,000 for the year. However, it likely spent about $600,000. Much of the costs derived from a ballot audit, recount and January’s Senate runoff election. A record number of people voted early in both Richmond and Columbia Counties during that election. 50,993 absentee or early votes were cast in Richmond County, while 47,425 were cast in Columbia County.
The runoff election did not come without its hiccups. 34 of Columbia county’s 47 precincts experienced technical issues with its voting machines on Election Day, forcing dozens of people to use paper ballots.
“I hate that it happened,” Nancy Gay, the Executive Director of the Columbia County Board of Elections, says. “I don’t want anyone in Columbia County or Georgia to have doubts in the voting process. To have that kind of mark on us hurts.”
Throughout the year, election officials leaned on their poll workers who kept operations running daily. Gay says they are the “unsung heroes of 2020.”
“They really risked putting their life on the line with each election last year.