Board of elections discusses legislative priorities

Dec. 14—The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed preparing for the 2023 Georgia General Assembly legislative cycle when it met on Tuesday.

The law-making session could bring changes to how the state conducts runoff elections.

It's possible the legislature could begin looking at runoff alternatives as well, said Elections and Registration Director Chris Channell.

Groups across the state have begun sending out letters gathering support for a slate of options. Channell detailed those for the board Tuesday.

Some suggest extending the time period between Election Day and the runoff from the four-week period in current law. The issue with that option is it opens the door to people who did not vote in a general election being able to register for the runoff of that election. That created a lot of issues for the board in 2020 with people who were not eligible calling the board and trying to register anyway when they saw new coverage of the runoff.

A second method of dealing with runoffs is deciding races by plurality. Currently, a candidate must get more than 50% of the vote to win, Channell said. Under a plurality system, the candidate who received the most votes — not necessarily 50% — would win. The system works fine in his home state of Kansas, Channell added.

Ranked-choice voting is another popular option. Under this system, voters assign a rank to each candidate on the ballot. Under this system, the winner is the one with the most first-choice votes, said Channell. If no one wins a simple majority, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated, along with the votes cast for them, and the votes are recalculated. This continues until one candidate has a 50%-plus-one vote.

The state's overseas and military ballots are already conducted via a ranked-choice structure, he said.

He asked board members to consider their preference, and Channell said he would keep them up to date on legislative activity at the state level.

Another legislative priority for the local board of elections is amending the state's current law to reduce the number of voting machines elections offices need to have on hand. The current ratio of one machine for every 250 voters is too much for a smaller county like Glynn, Channell said.

He also told the board that an audit of votes will begin tomorrow at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick. Since 2020, the state requires elections offices to audit a random sampling of ballots to verify election results.

In other business, Channell said the board's new office, next door to the current one at 1815 Gloucester St., is coming together quickly.

Delivery of one unit is running behind, but the contractor on the job will begin installing air handlers next week in anticipation of the arrival of the last one. The county's IT department has run into some issues with the building's keycard entry system, but it should not delay the project, he said. Inside, contractors are finishing the final coat of paint and will begin installing the flooring and climate control soon.

The new office should be ready in early 2023, and is a substantial upgrade, providing more office space, storage for election equipment and a greater degree of security.

The board also voted to give Channell the go-ahead to submit a preliminary budget request to the county with a few placeholder line items to meet a deadline. The placeholders were necessary because the elections office needs certain election equipment, but it will not get the exact costs back from Dominion Voting, the state vendor of voting equipment, until after the deadline.