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Expect a long night of counting ballots in Richmond County

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 4:44 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County election leaders say the state giving them two extra weeks to process mail-in ballots has been a saving grace.

They say getting it all done on Election Day just wouldn’t have been possible. Even still, local leaders say they don’t anticipate being done on Tuesday.

So far, the county has received 24,226 mail-in ballots as of Thursday.

“Will not be finished election night,” Richmond County elections official Lynn Bailey said. “I’m sure of it.”

The Georgia state elections board allowed counties to start opening and preparing those absentee ballots up to two weeks before Election Day. But they can’t start calculating results until Nov. 3.

“One of the things I think that will hold us up is absentee ballots that arrive at the last minute,” Bailey said.

Even still, Bailey expects we’ll have a pretty good idea of our local winners by election night or the day after. But for states like South Carolina that didn’t have the luxury of preparing absentee ballots in advance, results might not come so quickly.

“They’re sitting in envelopes in some storage room someplace,” Augusta University political science professor Dr. Gregg Murray said. “And they’ve got this huge number of these things to process and so that’s going to slow it down a lot.”

It’s because of this that Murray thinks it might be weeks until we know who our next president will be.

“It’s going to be controversial,” Murray said. “People are going to be frustrated. But I think to do it right, that’s just what’s going to have to happen.”

He says when it comes to an election as important as this one, taking weeks might not be such a bad thing.

“Even if it’s more than a couple weeks, we want people to feel like the process was fulfilled in an appropriate way,” Murray said.

At this point, if you plan to turn in an absentee ballot rather than vote in person, election leaders say your best bet is to bring it to the elections office in person or drop it in a ballot box.

Any ballot in Georgia that doesn’t arrive by Election Day, regardless of when it’s postmarked, won’t be counted.

And if you do want to vote in person on Election Day, they ask you to bring your mail-in ballot with you.

They say that will make the process move a lot faster because they won’t have to check to see if you’ve already mailed in a ballot.

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