This year’s General Election in Baldwin County promises to be record-setting in many ways.
At least that’s the prediction of Baldwin County Chief Deputy Registrar Randy Morrow.
And why not?
The county already has toppled an all-time high in the number of registered voters at more than 26,000. And that number is bound to increase between now and the Oct. 5 deadline for registering to vote in the Nov. 3 General Election.
As of Monday morning, 26,574 residents were registered to vote in Baldwin County, Morrow said.
“We’ve never reached 26,000 registered voters before in this county,” Morrow said during an interview Monday morning with The Union-Recorder at the Baldwin County Voter Registration Office, located in the new government annex building on North Columbia Street in Milledgeville.
Morrow attributes the surge in voter registration in the county to “interest in the presidential election, totally.”
He called it a major election.
“Presidential elections are always important, but this one seems to be of more magnitude than any we've had in our nation’s history,” Morrow said.
Residents living in Milledgeville and Baldwin County who are not yet registered to vote and wish to cast a ballot in the upcoming General Election are reminded that they have until Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. to get registered.
Already, Baldwin County has eclipsed another record-setting mark with the number of absentee ballot requests for the upcoming election.
As of Monday morning, 4,700 were already entered into the local system.
“And most of those have been mailed ballots,” Morrow said. “That’s already a record number of absentee ballots for Baldwin County, and we’re not even close to being finished yet.”
He pointed out that the elections office receives between 100 and 150 absentee ballots every day.
Anyone who requests an absentee ballot will receive one, as long as the voter’s signature or an X is placed on it,” Morrow said. “You can request an absentee ballot on a napkin. As long as you ask for it, and your signature or mark is on it, we’re going to issue you an absentee ballot.”
He said elections officials are required to do such by state law.
Those who wish to vote by absentee ballot are reminded that a new dropbox will be placed outside the Baldwin County Voter Registration Office at the new county government complex sometime soon.
There also is a dropbox in front of the Baldwin County Courthouse in downtown Milledgeville.
Anyone wishing to drop off their absentee ballot can do so anytime between now and Election Day.
Absentee ballots will be accepted with or without postage stamps, Morrow said.
“It’s going to create another issue — that of cancelations because people are going to come and try to face-to-face personally vote and we’re going to have to revert to a cancellation process,” Morrow said.
He plans to set up an operation with five members of the Baldwin County Board of Elections on election day helping to process such cancelations.
Morrow said election official colleagues around the state are seeing the same issues with multiple applications being sent out to respective voters.
“Our duplication issue on applications for absentee ballots show us getting two to three per person,” Morrow said. “You have to process those. You have to go through every step and find out whether it’s a duplication. Then, you have to file it and attach it. You can’t just throw it away.”
Morrow said voter participation groups who are busy mailing them out randomly, which is adding to the duplication issue.
He noted that the same problem happened back during the last election for governor, but not to such magnitude.
“It’s like they are never going to stop mailing them,” Morrow said.
When it comes to voter turnout for the upcoming election, Tuesday, Nov. 3, promises to set yet another record in Baldwin County, as well as many other counties across the Peach State.
“We’re looking for an 80 percent turnout of registered voters in Baldwin County, which would be simply unbelievable,” Morrow said. “That, in itself, would be another record for this county.”
Again, Morrow emphasized that it’s an important time in the nation’s history.
“It’s a very important election here and for our entire country,” Morrow said.
Early voting, which begins Oct. 12, also is expected to draw a record turnout of voters, Morrow said. Early voting ends Oct. 30.
To make it more convenient for voters, Saturday, Oct. 24, has been set aside for those wishing to vote as opposed to one of the traditional days of the week. The special voting time that day will be from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Fifteen voting machines will be set up to accommodate voters casting early ballots at the new voter register’s office.
Morrow said each of the machines will be separated by a petition to provide voters with the kind of privacy they deserve when choosing candidates and casting their ballot.