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What you need to know about voting in the Jan. 5 runoff elections

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What you need to know about voting in the Jan. 5 runoff elections

Graphic created by Cathi Harris
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By Cathi Harris, contributor 

Atlanta, GA — Although the U.S. presidential election is over, Georgia voters will still need to go right back to the polls in December and January. 

Both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, a seat on the state Public Service Commission, and the unexpired term of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis will be decided in runoff elections between the top two vote-getters in each race. If Democrats win the two U.S. Senate seats, the party will control the presidency, the Senate and the House, making it easier for President-elect Joe Biden to accomplish his legislative goals.

Georgia state law requires candidates for elected office to get at least 50 percent of all ballots cast. In contests with more than two contenders, if no one gets at least half the votes, the top two candidates from the general election will face each other in a runoff.

“We just finished an incredibly draining election cycle,” said Karen Davenport, second vice-chair of the DeKalb Democrats, in charge of the voter turnout committee. “We must keep voters motivated to vote in large numbers again.”

Speaking on behalf of the committee, Davenport said voters should feel encouraged that they have a chance now to really have an impact on decisions that affect them both at a state and a national level.

“We want people to know that their vote matters,” she told Decaturish. “When we get 60 to 70% of the people to vote, we get laws that help the majority of citizens, not just a few. Every single vote matters and is treated with respect. Elections are no longer landslides in Georgia, they come down to a few individuals in each precinct who decide to make their voice heard.”

Lawrence “Lane” Flynn, chair of the DeKalb GOP, said he is less concerned about voter motivation and more about making sure people understand how to vote in the Jan. 5 runoffs.

Georgia Republicans have historically done well in showing up for runoff elections, and we are working hard to ensure we again get out the vote for our candidates this January,” Flynn said. “The multiple different paths to voting—absentee, early in-person, and Election Day in-person—and the changing of early voting locations, in particular, has been a challenge for some voters.”

Last-minute changes in polling locations were also an issue for DeKalb voters that Flynn hopes to see better addressed for the runoff.

“For example, my precinct location was changed [for the general election], but I received the notification letter from the county on Election Day,” Flynn said. “We are working with the elections office to improve these efforts.” 

Here’s what voters in DeKalb County need to know for each election:

U.S. House of Representatives District 5 Expiring Term Runoff – Dec. 1

What’s at stake: Voters are choosing who will fill the remainder of John Lewis’ term. The winner will serve until January 3 when former state Sen. Nikema Williams, who won the seat in the general election, takes office. Emory professor Robert Franklin and former Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall advanced from the special election called on Sept. 29 to fill Lewis’ unexpired term.

Who can vote: Registered voters in Congressional District 5, which includes parts of DeKalb, Fulton and Clayton counties.

Deadline to register: The deadline to register in order to be eligible to vote in this election was October 5. Georgia state law sets the deadline for voter registration as the fifth Monday before an election is held.

Early voting: Early voting for this race started on Nov. 9 and continues until Nov. 25. In DeKalb County, the only location for early voting in this runoff is the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office (VRE) at 4380 Memorial Drive in Decatur.

Absentee voting: You can fill out an application for an absentee ballot here and submit the application to the DeKalb County registrar by mail, in person, or email to absenteeballot@dekalbcountyga.govPlease note: You must request separate absentee ballots for this race and the other runoff races to be held on Jan. 5. Ballot requests must be submitted by the Friday prior to the election.
If you previously requested an absentee ballot for this election, either because you are a senior citizen, have a disability or are an overseas voter, one will be mailed to you by Nov. 18.

Absentee ballots for this runoff that are mailed in or placed in authorized ballot collection boxes will be accepted until 7 p.m. on Dec. 1. You can find a map of authorized drop box locations here

U.S. Senate Special Election – Jan. 5 (Loeffler/Warnock)

What’s at stake: Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed in 2019 to fill out the term left by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, will face Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Out of a field of 20 candidates on the ballot in November, Warnock received the most votes, but not the majority. Loeffler received the second-highest. 

Who can vote: Any registered voter in Georgia, whether you voted in the general election or not. Residents of Georgia who will be at least 18 years old by the election date of Jan. 5 can register to vote by the registration deadline.

Deadline to register: Dec. 7.

Early voting: Begins Dec. 14. A list of early voting locations in DeKalb County can be found by clicking here.

Absentee voting: You can fill out an application for an absentee ballot here. Absentee ballots that are mailed in or placed in authorized ballot collection boxes will be accepted until 7 p.m. on Jan. 5. You can find a map of authorized drop box locations here

If you are a senior citizen, have a disability, or are stationed overseas and submitted a request that absentee ballots for this election be automatically sent to you, they will be mailed and you do not need to submit a new application.

U.S. Senate Regular Election (Ossoff/Perdue)

What’s at stake: Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue did not get a majority of votes in the general election. He will again face Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff election also on Jan. 5. 

Who can vote: Any voter registered in Georgia, whether you voted in the general election or not. Residents of Georgia who will be at least 18 years old by the election date of Jan. 5 can register to vote by the registration deadline.

Deadline to register: Dec. 7.

Early voting: Begins Dec. 14. A list of early voting locations in DeKalb County can be found by clicking here.

Absentee voting: You can fill out an application for an absentee ballot here. Absentee ballots that are returned by mail or placed in authorized ballot collection boxes will be accepted until 7 p.m. on Jan. 5. You can find a map of authorized drop box locations here

If you are a senior citizen, have a disability, or are stationed overseas and submitted a request that absentee ballots for this election be automatically sent to you, they will be mailed and you do not need to submit a new application.

Public Service Commission District 4 Seat (McDonald/Blackman)

What’s at stake: Incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald will face challenger Daniel Blackman. The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates Georgia’s utilities, including telephone service, natural gas, and electricity.

Who can vote: Any voter registered in Georgia. PSC seats are elected statewide. You do not have to live in PSC District 4. Residents of Georgia who will be at least 18 years old by the election date of Jan. 5 can register to vote by the registration deadline.

Deadline to register: Dec. 7.

Early voting: Begins Dec. 14. A list of early voting locations in DeKalb County can be found by clicking here.

Absentee voting: You can fill out an application for an absentee ballot here. Absentee ballots that are returned by mail or placed in authorized ballot collection boxes will be accepted until 7 p.m. on Jan. 5. You can find a map of authorized drop box locations here

If you are a senior citizen, have a disability, or are stationed overseas and submitted a request that absentee ballots for this election be automatically sent to you, they will be mailed and you do not need to submit a new application.

 

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