Elections: With state, local issues apparently resolved, small lines outside the admin building, Garden Lakes early Friday. Weekend voting at both spots. Plus: Masks, drop box updates.

Elections: With state, local issues apparently resolved, small lines outside the admin building, Garden Lakes early Friday. Weekend voting at both spots. Plus: Masks, drop box updates.

 

8:20 a.m. Friday: A small line outside the admin office in downtown Rome, one of two advance voting spots in operation this week. Hometown photo.
8:40 a.m. Thursday: A quiet start at the admin office in downtown Rome, one of two advance voting spots in operation this week. Hometown photo.

 

Friday update: Twenty minutes into the voting day, there was  small line outside the county administration office on Friday and a line outside Garden Lakes Baptist Church. The headaches provided by the programmers at the Secretary of State’s office are said to be resolved, and the local voting stations apparently have extra computers on hand to handle the crowd.

A reminder that both locations are open for voting this Saturday and Sunday. Please note differing times:

  • Oct. 17-18, Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Floyd County Administration Building Community Room. 
  • Oct. 17-18, Saturday and Sunday at Garden Lakes Baptist Church, Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p .m. and Sunday from 1 until 4 p.m.

No masks required when voting. Dr. Melanie Conrad of the elections board shared this update Friday following Thursday’s meeting:

“We just heard back from the county attorney regarding the issue of requiring voters to wear masks. Per Governor Kemp’s latest executive order regarding Covid, we cannot require voters to wear masks. “


Elections board hears turnout numbers, operational changes and concerns about masks on election day: Given the up-to-three hour waits from Monday’s start of advance voting to other issues with the Nov. 3 vote, Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the Floyd County Board of Elections and Registration was perhaps the most civil since August.

The hot button issue wasn’t the voting delays from Monday through Wednesday but whether voters would be required to wear face coverings when voting on Nov. 3. The answer, says Robert Brady, the county’s election chief, is he can’t require voters wear a mask per the U.S. Constitution. Community activist Larry Morrow questioned that call — and was joined by others — especially since the city of Rome has a mandatory mask law with some exceptions.

Brady explained that he is barred from requiring masks. Poll workers and election vendors will all have to hear face coverings that day, he says, adding that he can’t turn away voters if they come without any sort of protection. Even those who are noticeably ill will be accommodated, Brady says, adding that his staff likely will direct anyone with obviou signs of illness to a more private voting experience.

As for those not wearing masks, a resigned Brady said, “If you want to die, die.”

Brady also said the Barkers precinct will continue to be ran on the other side of the VFW that accommodates the Vanns Valley precinct. In all, Floyd will have 25 precincts with two others sharing the Rome Civic Center.

From left, Elections Chief Robert Brady, board chair Dr. Tom Rees, board member Dr. Melanie Conrad prior to the start of the meeting. Alvin Jackson and another attendee on on the right side of the tables. Hometown photo.

Other updates from the meeting, held at The Forum and attended by two dozen or so residents:

  • Monday through Wednesday, 2,155 people had voted in person at the county administration building or Garden Lakes Baptist Church. In three days, 1,167 had voted downtown and 988 in West Rome.
  • Absentee ballots at the two drop boxes were continuing to come in. So far, 777 ballots have been left in the box outside the elections office on First Street while 381 have been picked up at the box from the library. A $54,000-plus grant the office has received will be used, in part, to install three more boxes. Those locations have yet to be finalized, Brady said.
  • One reminder to voters from Brady: You don’t need to put a stamp on the ballot return envelope if you’re using a drop box.
  • The county has mailed more than 15,000 absentee ballots to date, Brady says. One issue has been what he calls the lag time in posting absentee status updates from the Secretary of State’s office. The MVP and BalloTrax pages are up to five days behind in some cases, he says.
  • The Floyd elections office will begin processing absentee ballots on our about Oct. 27 rather than on election day.
  • Board Chairman Dr. Tom Rees praised the poll workers dealing with the surge in in-person workers this week and said “maybe it will be a little smoother over the weekend.” His wife voted on Wednesday and had around a 45-minute wait.
  • Rees also thanked Rome Mayor Bill Collins for offering to help will any part of the election process.

According to Thursday’s AJC:

Voting slowed to a crawl across Georgia this week in large part because of check-in computers that couldn’t handle the load of record turnout at early voting locations. The problem created a bottleneck as voters reached the front of the line, when poll workers had to deal with sluggish laptops to verify each voter. Some early voting sites reported checking in just 10 voters per hour at each computer.

The computer problem shows why poll workers struggled to clear long lines: They could only move as quickly as the technology would let them while managing 243,000 voters in the first two days of Georgia’s three-week period of early voting.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger initially attributed the lines to high turnout, which is part of the reason for delays. But it became clear from interviews with poll workers, election officials and voters this week that technical difficulties contributed to severe waits.

Raffensperger said Wednesday that he’s working with the state’s election software company to improve speeds and process voters more quickly.

Please click here for the full story.

Another shared problem is processing in-person voters who already were mailed absentee ballots. The poll workers are having to basically void the absentee ballot before someone can vote in-person. While creating a delay, it is likewise avoiding any chances of someone attempting to vote twice.


Above, the line outside the administration building in downtown Rome waiting to vote at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday. Below, the line outside Garden Lakes Baptist Church at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday. Hometown photos.

The scene at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday at Garden Lakes. The wait was down to an hour. Courtesy of TB.

>Updates from Monday’s vote: Meltdown.

Day two of advance voting saw some improvement in Floyd County following Monday’s meltdown. Waits of an hour to 90 minutes were reported at both the administration building in downtown Rome as well as at Garden Lakes Baptist Church. One central issue we’re hearing about today is state-related. The ENET system was described as “horribly slow” by veteran elections workers.

We do hear that several changes are being made effective Wednesday at both voting locations that should continue to speed up the process. One issue has been not enough computers for onsite use. Another has been validating voters who have received absentee ballots but instead want to vote in person. We’ll have updates throughout the day.

Comments from Tuesday:

“15th in line downtown and it took an hour and a half to vote. System kept locking up on the poll workers.”

“One hour to vote at Garden Lakes. Slow Internet.”

What was apparent from Monday was that Floyd County was not prepared. A sampling from surrounding counties — where turnout was even greater — found much shorter waits on Monday.

  • Gordon County: We  checked with Shea Hicks, chair of the Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration Office, on how things went there. Says Hicks: “We had 30-minute wait times.  We voted 652 voters early, the system was really slow today with the State System (ENET), which is how we check the voters in.”
  • Polk County: 1,029 total advance votes on Monday with 566 in the Cedartown Office and 463 in Rockmart.  Elections Coordinator Brande Coggins on Monday’s vote:
    “We did not have many issues with wait times. The longest period was approximately 10-15 minutes.”
  • Floyd County: 525 voters on Monday per the Rome News-Tribune. Wait times of two to 3.5 hours reporting at both the administration office site as well as Garden Lakes Baptist Church.
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