Moving boxes, hand trucks and sweat.
Those three things are in store for the Madison County elections office over the next week as the voting center of the county shifts to a new Danielsville locale for the second time in four years.
Madison County’s elections office is scheduled to open Aug. 2 in the renovated building off Albany Avenue near the county government complex that formerly housed Brown Funeral Home.
Board of elections chairperson Tracy Dean said the new office will be good, but first comes the ordeal of a big move, which always holds its headaches. Madison County inmates will help with the move.
“We’re excited, and trying to get more excited,” said Dean. “I hate packing up and moving. We just got the voters used to where we are. But I think it (the new locale) is going to work.”
Dean, whose office includes herself, another full-time worker and two part-time employees, oversaw a move four years ago when her office packed up and moved out of the county government complex and into a building on Spring Lake Drive.
But the commissioners purchased the old Albany Avenue funeral home last year, and renovated it for roughly $50,000. And that building will now house the county elections office (and Danielsville voting precinct), as well as office space for the county coroner’s office — the coroner’s morgue is located at the sheriff’s complex. The old funeral home sanctuary will serve as court space for the probate, magistrate and juvenile courts, as well as training space for the elections office.
After the elections office is moved, the Spring Lake Drive building will house the county industrial authority and water department.
Dean said the new elections office will include more space, which has been in short supply at the current office. For instance, the new voting room will be able to hold 15 voting machines. There’s also the hope that all county election equipment can be stored in the same building, which hasn’t been possible at the Spring Lake Drive office. Dean said the county has 24 big scanning bins — about the size of a washing machine. She said 14 of the bins can fit in one of the storage rooms in the new building. There are two other storage spaces as well.
Dean said the elections office will be closed the week of July 26-30 for the move.
“Just be patient with us while we’re moving and call us if you’ve got any questions,” she said.
She said an open house will likely be held after the employees settle in to allow the public to see the new facility.
After a hectic 2020 election season, 2021 has been much slower for the elections office. However, there will be a county referendum Nov. 2 on a new one-cent sales tax for county transportation improvements. And voters in District 3 in south Madison County will vote in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Theresa Bettis, who resigned this spring. Qualifying will be held in August, but five people have filed their intent to seek the seat with the elections office: Kevin Cheek, Melanie Dove, Frank May, John Scarborough and Marilyn Walton.
A five-person race holds the distinct possibility of a runoff, and Dean noted that the new election laws passed by the Georgia Assembly this year will basically cut in half the time between the regular election and runoffs, with the top two vote getters facing off in a runoff four weeks after the initial vote.
Dean said she doesn’t see major changes for her office due to the voting legislation. She noted that drop boxes will be placed inside the elections office, instead of outside, with voters able to drop off their ballots during office hours but not after hours.
She said county voters will now have more opportunity to cast their ballots on Saturdays.
“The main thing is we’re not cutting any voting hours; we’re increasing for our county,” she said. “We’ll be voting two Saturdays now instead of one. That’s mandatory. We have to do that. So it will give them more voting times.”
Voter IDs are also required now with absentee ballots.
“As far as voter ID, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that voter ID,” said Dean. “You have to show an ID if get your license or go to the doctor’s office. And if you’ve got a Social Security number or driver’s license number, that’s going to work. I don’t see a big concern with that in our county. We’ve never had a major issue with absentees.”
Dean noted that registered voters who don’t have a valid driver’s license or a Georgia ID can sign an affidavit that they don’t have any such identification, then get an election ID through the elections office or the State Patrol. She said anyone falsifying such a document can face felony charges, but that a voting ID for those who really need one is accessible.
The voting law also gives the state more power to step in to local election offices to investigate. According to the new law, “the State Election Board may suspend county or municipal superintendents and appoint an individual to serve as the temporary superintendent in a jurisdiction.”
“I don’t see anything as far as my position goes, but if there are any complaints to the state and probable cause there, the state will come in to investigate if I’m doing something wrong,” she said. “But that’s stemming back from other counties that were having issues at the last election.”
Madison County citizens seeking information on registering to vote or wanting other election information can contact the elections office at 706-795-6335 or visit the county elections website at mcelections.net.