Ballots arrive late, challenge possible

By Greg Gelpi

The ballots are in and Clayton County residents can begin absentee voting.

The Clayton County Department of Elections and Registration received the remainder of its ballots Monday. Diebold, the company printing the ballots, had problems printing them and delivered them late. By law, there is supposed to be 30 days of absentee voting prior to the election, but the ballots arrived with less than 30 days to go.

The law is fairly new and may be untested, said Chip Carey, an associate professor of political science at Georgia State University. A court would ultimately decide the impact of the delay if someone challenges the election.

There are several possibilities including a judge throwing out the election, Carey said, adding that absentee ballots are usually only a fraction of the votes in a primary election.

"Absentee ballots don't typically make that big of a difference in a primary," he said. "Hopefully, they'll resolve this before the election, rather than after the election. This is all complicated by the fact they're encouraging absentee balloting now."

Carey said a few days' delay may not violate the spirit of the law and that it may be a moot point unless a race is close.

Diebold acknowledged the delay in shipping the ballots to Clayton County last week, but couldn't confirm the reason for the delay.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office intervened for the county and arranged for the ballots to arrive on Monday. Cara Hodgson, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office, had said that it's possible that the delay could lead to a contested election.

Absentee voting will continue from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until July 19, the Monday before the primary election. Advance voting will be the week before the primary, except for July 19.

Anyone can vote in advance, although absentee voting requires applying for an absentee ballot.

For more information, visit the Clayton County Department of Elections and Registration at www.co.clayton.ga.us/brd_elections_registration/index.htm.