As Georgia prepares for an unprecedented number of voters using absentee ballots in the upcoming primary election, the State Election Board has approved a rule that will allow local election boards to open absentee ballots up to eight days before Election Day.
The Board members made the decision last week in an emergency rule for the June 9th primary. [You can read it here]
I understand why so many people are going with absentee ballots (a whopping 1.4 million so far!) and just as many will likely take advantage of in-person early voting, but this ‘open the ballots early’ thing is not going to do much for the ‘sanctity of elections’ narrative. Not when the entire year-long debate about new voting machines and hand-marked paper ballots centered around what environments foster fraud. (Hint: Environments like this)
But local election officials have understandably voiced concern about the time it will take to count all the paper absentee ballots and have echoed the almost certain reality of not having election results on election night. Many are working with smaller staffs and volunteer pools because traditional poll workers are unwilling or unable to help. All of this is yet another cluster of consequences, albeit manageable ones, of the uncharted territory of a global pandemic.
Normally, absentee ballots can’t be opened until Election Day – for obvious reasons – which is why I think most voters would prefer to wait for elections results than know that some people already know what those results may look like before Election Day even arrives. Big counties, little counties, metro counties, rural counties – I don’t think the forthcoming issues will be exclusive with this rule.
I’d like to be more optimistic, but I know better because I’ve seen otherwise.