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Athens News Matters: Rocky Raffle Midterm follow-up

Rocky Raffle
Rocky Raffle
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On the Wednesday after election day, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had nothing but words of praise for the people who pulled off Tuesday’s record-shattering election.

“It takes people,” Raffensperger told reporters at the state capitol. “Lots of people, very hard working people to make it happen.”

Among the people Raffensperger praised were, “…the greatest county election teams that I think our nation has.”

That was a sentiment echoed by the chair of Clarke County’s Board of Elections, Rocky Raffle.

“We had a successful election as far as administration was concerned,” Raffle said.

Turnout across the state was unprecedented for a midterm election, but here in Athens-Clarke County, Raffle says he was disappointed that only about 40,000 people voted.

Raffle notes that before the last week of early voting, the Board of Elections decided to extend voting hours to give people with 9 – 5 jobs a chance to vote without impacting their work schedules. He says that he thinks it made a difference, even if it didn’t lead to record turnout in Athens.

“Even if it was a small number of voters, it's still very important to us,” Raffle said.

But whether turnout was high, as it was statewide, or just kind of okay, like in Athens, when all the votes were counted, almost everything was decided. Almost.

US Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker still have about a month of campaigning ahead of them. Neither man got more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning that the two candidates will head to a December 6 runoff election.

On Wednesday, Raffensperger told reporters that his office was already getting ready for the runoff.

“Ballots are being built as we speak, and counties are making preparations,” Raffensperger said.

And while four weeks means a serious time crunch for campaigns fighting for every last vote while many voters are tuning out, it’s arguably even more stressful for elections workers.

“Our staff is stretched very thin,” Raffle said. “Our staff is tired, our poll workers are tired. [But] everyone understands the importance of this work, and I think they will continue to do their best.”

Part of that stress for elections workers comes from the dual challenge of preparing for an election to come while still finishing up the work on the election that was.

“Election staff is currently tabulating and going over the numbers and making sure everything is correct,” Raffle said. “They are also trying to cure provisional ballots or absentee ballots that may have had an issue that needs to be cured, such as a signature or a transposed digit and a driver's license.”

This is the state’s third runoff is less than two years. Rocky Raffle says that elections workers in Clarke County knew it was coming and did what they could to prepare in advance.

But, there’s only so much a staff can do in advance – and now, the clock is ticking.

Here’s what we, as voters need to know about early voting. Most importantly, there’s not going to be a whole lot of it because of the short time frame before the runoff. Raffensperger says voters can request absentee ballots through Monday November 28.

Monday, November 28 is also the date by which early voting has to start, although counties may choose to start early voting the weekend before. One of those counties could be Athens-Clarke County, which has a history of going above and beyond the minimum requirements when it comes to early voting. That’s something Rocky Raffle wants to see in his capacity as a member of the Board of Elections.

“I'd like to see as many days [of early voting] as possible, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM,” Raffle said.

Raffle says that the Board of Elections is set to meet on Monday at 4:30 to make a decision about when early voting starts and how expanded it can be, given the county’s resources.

Public input is a big part of that process.

Full information about that meeting can be found at ACC GOV dot com.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.