ALBANY — Dougherty County voters will have three additional locations to drop off absentee ballots with the approval on Monday of the drop boxes and additional staffing for the Voter Registration and Elections Office.
The Dougherty County Commission approved the $158,000 package that includes two full-time employees, extra money for a busy election year and three drop ballot drop boxes by a 5-1 vote after lengthy discussion on the issue.
Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson requested that the two additional full-time staff members be included in the 2020-2021 county budget.
Commissioners did not fund the positions while preparing this year’s budget, which was relatively frugal due to the expected impact on sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commissioners were in agreement on the two new employees, at a cost of $112,000, and $20,000 in additional money to hire temporary poll workers for the election, but not on the drop boxes.
Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas suggested funding drop boxes at only two locations — Tallulah Massey Library and Southside Library, but not the third at the Northwest Library branch — while Commissioner Russell Gray was against the drop boxes altogether.
“Every individual has a drop box located outside their house,” Gray said, referring to the U.S. Postal Service. He who cast the lone vote against the measure. “I don’t think we should be spending money we don’t necessarily have on things we don’t necessarily need. This is another unfunded mandate.”
There has been discussion that mail delivery times are slower than usual, so individuals should know to take the responsibility to mail ballots earlier, he said.
Commissioner Gloria Gaines said she agreed with Gray up to a point but noted, “It’s also incumbent on the federal government to instill confidence in our ballot getting where it’s supposed to go in a timely manner.”
Cohilas suggested eliminating the drop box at the Northwest Library location, which would still keep those at the other libraries and outside the Government Center building downtown. However, his motion to that effect did not pass.
“I’m looking at it through a different lens,” he said. “I’m frustrated in that we have, I would say, one of the best-served communities in terms of voting (with) 28 voting precincts. (But) we have some precincts where less than 50 people vote.
“I think the drop boxes are a good idea. I think three is excessive.”