Debris lines the sidewalks on West Broad Avenue in Albany following Hurricane Michael. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

In Hurricane Michael’s wake, Democrats ask for extended absentee ballot deadline in Dougherty County

Since mid-October, both Republicans and Democrats have been calculating the impact that Hurricane Michael and its devastation would have on voting in rural Georgia.

On Saturday, the Stacey Abrams campaign for governor released an Oct. 26 letter to Gov. Nathan Deal, requesting an emergency order that would allow absentee ballots from voters in Dougherty County to flow in and be counted until Friday, Nov. 9 – as long as the ballots are postmarked by Election Day.

Friday is the deadline for provisional and absentee ballots to be counted.

About 1,000 requests for absentee ballots may be involved. According to the Abrams campaign, Deal has yet to respond to the request, which underlines how close both sides perceive Tuesday’s contest to be.

Dougherty County, in southwest Georgia, is the most populated of the rural Georgia counties struck by Michael on Oct. 10.

The letter from DuBose Porter, chairman of the Georgia Democratic party, outlines a particular problem faced by Dougherty:

-- In August, an unrelated court case resulted in an injunction that prohibited the Dougherty County Board of Elections from issuing any absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election.

-- That injunction wasn’t lifted until Friday, Oct. 5.

-- Monday, Oct. 8, was a Columbus Day holiday.

-- Two days later, Hurricane Michael struck, shutting down much of the local government’s operations in Albany, the county seat. According to Porter, Dougherty County’s mail is still being routed through Tallahassee, Fla., adding to time delays. From the letter:

“Even after the office reopened, the [Democratic Party of Georgia] understands that the BOE Supervisor and her staff had problems with their electric power and telephone system. The DPG is aware through our own tracking of at least 1,000 absentee ballot applications that had to be processed…”

“…[D]espite their best efforts, the most recent information that we have as of Octobert 25,2018 is that the processing will not be finished until Sunday night, October 28, 2018, and the remaining ballots will not be mailed until Monday, October 29, 2018. Morevoer, and very importantly, we understand that Dougherty County’s U.S. Mail service is now routed through Tallahassee, rather than locally, which will necessarily result in additional delays.”

“This timetable does not reliably allow sufficient time for many voters to receive their ballot through the mail, to mail it back to the BOE, and to have the ballot delivered to the BOE by 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 6, in time to be counted.”

You can scroll through the letter here:

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.

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