Georgia election directors brace for changes to voting laws

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Georgia’s election directors are patiently waiting to learn what changes, if any, will be made to the state’s voting laws.

“We’re just kind of floating right now,” Lilvender Bolton, Lincoln County’s Director of Voter Registration and Elections, says.

Several of the bills would limit when and how people can vote. One takes aim at ballot drop boxes, only allowing them to be located inside polling places and accessible during voting hours.

“Our drop boxes were heavily used. A majority of the time, they were used after [voting] hours.”

Lincoln County saw a dramatic increase in people requesting absentee ballots in 2020. Bolton’s team sent out between 800 and 1,000 in past elections. That number increased to about 2,500 in November.

Meanwhile, Richmond County is at risk of losing several drop boxes. Several were placed throughout the community in 2020. The bill would only allow one to be used in future elections, if approved.

“I think that would have an impact on anybody who votes by mail who got used to the convenience of having them,” Lynn Bailey, the Executive Director of the Richmond County Board of Elections, says.

A separate bill would require counties to allow for early voting on two Saturdays ahead of Election Day. It provides another opportunity to vote, but it could cost election teams thousands of dollars.

“We would have to staff an extra day,” Bolton says.

Budgets are already tight, but election directors are ready to implement the new changes if they are approved.

“Once these laws are finally passed, we’ll have to do our best in voter education to help voters realize that both before and after these changes, when it comes to voting, you shouldn’t take things for granted,” Bailey explains. “You need to make a plan. You need to be on top of it.  You need to figure out the best way for you to vote.”

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