Georgia delays primary election until June 9

Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 10:33 AM CDT
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Georgia is postponing its statewide general primary/presidential preference primary election until June 9, officials announced today.

The move by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger came a day after Gov. Brian Kemp extended the public health state of emergency until May 13

due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston concurred in the governor’s extension of the state of emergency.

“Due to the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency through a time period that includes almost every day of in-person voting for an election on May 19, and after careful consideration, I am now comfortable exercising the authority vested in me by Georgia law to postpone the primary election until June 9,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials, and poll workers.”

Over the past week, the reports of mounting difficulties from county election officials, particularly in southwest Georgia, grew to a point of concern. County election officials could not overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19 in time for in-person voting to begin on April 27, Raffensperger's office said.

Additionally, current modeling by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia will peak around April 24, only days before in-person voting was scheduled to begin.

While challenges will certainly remain on June 9, these additional three weeks will give officials time to shore up contingency plans, find and train additional poll workers and procure supplies and equipment necessary to clean equipment and protect poll workers, Raffensperger's office said.

While Raffensperger previously expressed concern that he did not have the authority to move the primary election again, the governor’s extension of the state of emergency to a time that includes almost every day of in-person voting for a May 19 election is sufficient to allow the secretary to exercise the emergency authority given to him under the law, his office said.

“I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances,” Raffensperger said.

Given existing deadlines to prepare and send ballots for the November election, particularly for military voters, moving forward on June 9 is the best way to ensure a successful election year in Georgia, Raffensperger's office said.

Key dates

Absentee ballot applications for the upcoming primary election will continue to be accepted and processed by counties even if the application said May 19. Once county election officials properly verify the signature on the application, the voter will be sent an absentee ballot for the primary election now to be held on June 9.

The voter registration deadline will be May 11. Early voting will begin on May 18. The primary runoff will be Aug. 11.

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