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Moving Georgia's Primary no easy feat: Secretary of State Raffensperger

Changing election date requires altering state law.

ATLANTA — The coronavirus has already affected the Georgia political scene.  And it may not be done yet.

The state’s presidential preference primary, scheduled for March 24, has been moved to the general primary date of May 19. Now, some political forces in Georgia, including House Speaker David Ralston, want to move that election to an even later date.

According to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, moving the primary would require major legislative or executive action, because moving any election means changing state law.

“It would require an act of the [Georgia] General Assembly,” Raffensperger told 11Alive Wednesday in an interview. “So the leadership could meet and decide to change that law. Or an act of the Governor, as part of an emergency declaration.”

Raffensperger says his department would be able to adjust if that were to happen.

“If we do get that, we will gladly move it to a different time.  Our job is to execute elections, it’s not to create them.”

Early in-person voting is scheduled to begin April 27, but that could be in jeopardy depending on developments with the coronavirus.  The Secretary of State hopes to allay any fears about people going out in public during the pandemic.  

Every Georgia voter will receive an absentee request form which allows that person to request an absentee ballot. So, there would be no requirement to physically go to the polls for this particular election.

“People are probably thinking that they don’t want to go out,” said Raffensperger.  “Or, how safe is it going to be when I get out there?  And so, I think we’ll have higher absentee voter turnout.”

Raffensperger also addressed concerns about election security, especially if people choose to vote remotely.  

“If you vote absentee, you must sign that ballot. The Secretary of State’s office will match that signature at the county level," he said. "If something doesn’t look right, the county will give that voter a call and ask for additional documentation.”

On May 19, Georgians will vote for the Democratic nominee for president as well as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate - the seat held by Republican David Perdue - and other Congressional, state, and county-level races.

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