Last week, Speaker David Ralston penned a letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger calling for the primaries in Georgia to be pushed from May 19th to June if not later due to COVID-19.
This week, we have received a joint letter signed by both of Georgia’s US Senators and the Republican US House delegation that has been sent to Secretary Raffensperger urging him to delay the May primary.
In the letter, Georgia’s Republican delegation to Washington express their concern about early voting starting for the May primary slated to start on April 27th which would go against CDC recommendations of social distancing as well as concerns of costs if Georgia is mandated to delay the primary:
If the election were to be held on May 19th, the legally mandated early voting period would be required to begin on April 27th in direct contradiction to the CDC’s recommendations that all Americans avoid large gatherings. As you yourself have said, the average poll worker in Georgia is over the age of 70, a group that medical experts have indicated is especially vulnerable to this virus. Moving forward with an election date that requires early voting to begin during a time when every public health agency has stated that “if you are an older person, stay home and away from other people” is irresponsible. Keeping the status quo unnecessarily exposes Georgia’s poll workers to dangerous health risks and creates the possibility of severely understaffed voting locations if those poll workers follow the guidance of federal, state, and local authorities.
We are also concerned about the potential cost to the state and to local entities. If the state moves ahead with the schedule as you have laid it out only to be forced to delay it again, costs incurred would be irrecoverable, forcing Georgia and local counties to spend unnecessary resources at a time of great budget uncertainty. Additionally, if an infected person does decide to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, local governments, libraries, schools, community centers, and other facilities that regularly serve as polling places would be exposed to expensive sanitization costs. Furthermore, some of the facilities used as voting locations may not be open at all given the various actions local governments have taken to combat the spread of this disease.
We aren’t aware if Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan has weighed in on this, and we suspect that Governor Brian Kemp is focused on the state’s response to COVID-19 that he won’t likely wade into this issue.
Although Secretary Raffensperger’s office has been working the circuit to explain how election security would be ensured through voters using mail-in absentee ballots versus in-person voting, but it’s possible that the Secretary of State may be finding himself on an island if more elected officials start pushing for a delay of the primary out of concern of the current public health emergency.