Your vote counts….or does it?

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dr. Ray Chambers

By RAYMOND L. CHAMBERS, Ph.D

Chairman, Decatur County Board of Elections and Registration

The past primary election revealed a number of situations in which voters were either ill-informed or just unaware of what is involved in conducting elections. This article is an attempt to clarify some of the items that have proven to be confusing.

First: Elections are conducted according to state law. Therefore, even minor deviations are violations of the law. When a poll worker suggests that a person cannot vote or that there is some other problem, it usually is because the potential voter was unaware of a technicality that invalidates a vote. People should follow the rules that are regularly published in newspapers or online by the appropriate deadlines.

Second: There is a very real difference between a primary and a general election. In primary elections we have had voters come in wanting to pick some candidates from one party and other candidates from the other party(ies). You cannot do this in a primary election. A primary election is an opportunity for members of a party to select the candidates to represent that party in the general election. A general election allows voters to choose between parties.

Third: In Georgia you cannot register as a Democrat, Republican, Socialist or any other party. You register only as a voter. Then, in the primary election, you choose the party whose candidates you want to select among.

Fourth: Know where to vote. As a convenience to voters, voting places (called precincts) are located around the county near the major population centers. While there is an attempt to match the precincts with the individual districts of candidates for various offices, the location of the precincts is primarily for the voters. Therefore you must now where you are expected to cast your vote so that you get the proper ballot for the offices in your district. This information was sent to you on the voter registration cards. Please pay attention to those cards. If you are uncertain about the proper location, call our office: (229) 243-2087.

This is very important! If you go to the “wrong” precinct you will be directed to the one where you should vote. If there isn’t enough time to get to that precinct you may be able to vote on a provisional ballot. However, you may not be able to vote in local office races (school board, county commissioners, city council members).

Fifth: The Department of Driver Services has generously donated its resources to help you register to vote when you apply for a Georgia drivers license. However, DDS doesn’t have the information about qualifications for and timing of registration deadlines. Call our office for deadline information and/or qualifications requirements.

Sixth: When you go to vote and insert the voter card in the machine make sure you have been given the correct ballot. If not, do not go any further. Notify one of the poll workers and they will give you the proper ballot.

Seventh: You cannot transfer your voter registration. Whenever you move, whether it is from out of state or another county, you must register with our office.

Eighth: One of the first things you should do when you move is find out the deadline for when you must register to vote. If you’re even one day after the deadline, Georgia law prohibits you from voting until the next election.

Ninth: Have there been changes? Have you moved to a new home? Has your name changed? You must let us know.

Our obligation as the Board of Elections and Registration is to assure that people who are properly qualified to vote, according to state law, are able to do so. But even one day late for registration, or your special circumstances, will not allow us to make exceptions.

If you really want to vote but have employment or location problems, ask for an absentee ballot or vote on Saturday (new this year) or on one of the other 21 early voting days. And don’t let the picture ID requirement stop you. We can make a photo ID for you. However, this identification card can be used only for voting purposes. But please understand that there is only so much we can do for you. The rest is up to you.