Citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, Georgia’s Secretary of State decided over the weekend to delay the state’s presidential primary until May.
“We judged that the risk presented by the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the time that remained before the upcoming election, made it imperative that we delay the election,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday morning. “We made the decision in the interest of public health, safety and security.”
Hundreds of thousands of votes had been cast since polls opened on March 2. Raffensperger said that Georgians who’ve already voted in the presidential primary will still get a chance to vote in all other races in the May primary, which features legislative and local races.
“Those who have already voted, should be confident that their votes will be secure and counted in May,” Raffensperger said. “Because of the digital system, we are able to easily provide personalized ballots to those who’ve voted early and to those who haven’t.”
Raffensperger said voters will still have the option to vote in either party’s May primary, regardless of which one they may have voted for in March.
He said they’d consulted with leaders of both parties regarding the delay of the presidential primary.
“But particularly the Democrat party because they have a contested election. We wanted to make sure that we had full engagement and support in whatever decision we made,” Raffensperger said.” So we’re really grateful for the support of Sen. Nikema Williams and her team as we’d had multiple discussions over the last several days.”
Raffensperger said his office acknowledges that the situation with the coronavirus could be similar by the time early voting for the May primary begins in late April. He said his office will be encouraging voters, especially those over the age of 60, to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot.
“We’re building ballots right now for the May primary, so we’ll have the absentee ballots, and we’ll be very robust in our approach to that to encourage and send out applications,” Raffensperger said.
Cobb County elections director Jeanine Eveler said it was becoming increasingly more difficult to find poll workers as fears of the coronavirus spread.
“It was our belief that that would continue to expand further throughout the next week. We were urging the state, like Secretary Raffensperger said, to take the health of the poll workers into consideration and of the public and to see what could be done legally to delay the election,” Eveler said.
“We are very hopeful that the situation will improve from this point, and we won’t have the same issues for the upcoming May 19 date.”
WABE reporter Emma Hurt contributed to this report.