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Commissioners discuss early voting in Hogansville, ballot drop boxes

Troup County Elections and Registration Supervisor Andy Harper came before the county Board of Commissioners Thursday morning to update officials on several issues around the November election.

For the first time, Hogansville is likely to have an in-person early voting location. Commissioners must first approve the county’s proposed agreement with the city at next Tuesday’s meeting, which Harper gave an overview of.

If approved, early voting will be at the Hogansville City Hall Annex, located at 600 East Main Street. This building was formerly the public library and should not be confused with the new library on Johnson Street. The new library will serve as a voting precinct on election day but will not be used for early voting.

Early voting starts Oct. 12 and is available through Oct. 30, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Troup County Government Center and the Hogansville location. There will also be one Saturday where early voting occurs — Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The city of Hogansville would reimburse the county for its early voting location, per the agreement, because the Hogansville City Council voted to have early voting after the county’s budget was passed. Also stipulated is that, if Hogansville plans to hold early voting for its municipal elections, it will pay the county to operate that, as well. The county has agreements with all three cities in the county whereby the county operates municipal elections and is reimbursed by the cities.  

West Point has not requested an early voting location, Harper said.

In an interview, Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said he hopes early voting could make the election safer in regards to COVID-19. 

“Without early voting., Hogansville is one of the largest precincts for in-person voting on election day,” Stankiewicz said. “And we think that’s because in the past, there’s been no early voting. By instituting early voting, I think it will cut back on the number of people that are voting on election day at the polling place.”

Also discussed were the ballot drop boxes the county has acquired, courtesy of a state grant. The drop box in LaGrange is already installed at the government center. The box in Hogansville will be at the Hogansville Police Department, and the box in West Point will be at West Point City Hall. 

The boxes for Hogansville and West Point should “hopefully” be installed by Friday, Harper said.

Voters can drop their sealed absentee ballots into the boxes instead of sending them through the mail.

Crews asked Harper if he was having trouble finding poll workers. Harper said he was working on that and currently has applications being processed. Two people that had signed up to work the polls backed out, but the county now has 110 workers signed up for the county’s 14 voting precincts.

“I’ve already locked in … the poll workers are guaranteed that they’re going to be there, unless they change their mind between now and next Friday,” Harper said.

Amid concerns that this election will see record numbers of absentee ballots, with vote-counting- delays as a consequence, Commissioner Lewis Davis asked Harper when he could start counting mail-in ballots.

By law, Harper said they could start scanning ballots two weeks before election day. The ballots cannot be tabulated until election night.

“We’re trying to get everything processed ahead of time, as much as possible, 100 percent,” Harper said.

Lastly, Harper explained his office would ask for commissioners to approve a grant application at its Tuesday meeting.

Backed by a $250 million contribution from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, The Center for Tech and Civic Life is providing grants to local election jurisdictions across the country to help with staffing, training and equipment.

Harper said he wasn’t yet sure how much money Troup County would receive, but that the money could be used for equipment for poll workers and personal protective equipment (PPE). According to the CTCL, the minimum grant award is $5,000, though the amount of money given to a jurisdiction is determined using a formula pegged to voting age population and other demographic data. 

CTCL is a nonprofit that that describes itself as “a team of civic technologists, trainers, researchers, election administration and data experts working to foster a more informed and engaged democracy, and helping to modernize U.S. elections.”