The New York Times headlines were scathing: "Georgia's election meltdown" and "Georgia's election descends into chaos."
The reality is a couple of counties experienced major problems deserving of those headlines, but most of Georgia's 159 counties handled a challenging general primary and presidential preference primary voting day last Tuesday well. We can be proud that Whitfield County's election officials did an excellent job of preparation and execution.
For months it's been clear the new paper ballot voting machines would slow the voting process due to the learning curve for poll workers and voters alike. Then came the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, further slowing the in-person voting process due to social distancing and machine sanitizing protocols. So how did the Whitfield County Board of Elections and the Registrar manage to pull off voting day with only minor glitches?
In short, they understood their responsibilities vs. the state's and fulfilled them. Georgia law is clear. The Secretary of State's responsibility is training county election officials. County election officials are responsible for selecting, equipping and staffing polling locations and training poll workers.
Whitfield County was well represented at a four-day conference for the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials held last December in Savannah. Coordinated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, it boasted a record attendance in large part due to the education and training opportunities on the state's new voting system.
Whitfield County handled the record number of absentee ballots well by providing a secure drop box outside the courthouse for voters who didn't want to mail their ballot. And to ease the voting day burden on workers, they took advantage of the state's offer to open and scan absentee ballots beginning June 1, although those ballots could not be counted early.
Lastly, Whitfield Board of Elections pushes communications out to the community and uses social media effectively. In January, when over 200 new voting machines arrived, voters were offered the opportunity to come by the elections office for individual demonstrations. As the election dates changed due to the pandemic, our folks made sure the community was informed.
So to Mary Hammontree, Whitfield County's Registrar, and her team as well as our Board of Elections -- "Sparky" Kelehear, Rob Cowan and Carol Byers -- we thank you for a job well done!