Early voting begins in Georgia with new precautions

Voters were greeted by poll workers in masks and traffic-yellow vests Monday at the Cobb County elections department.

With guidance from the state, county elections officials adopted new protocols for in-person voting ahead of the June 9 primary, including social distancing, enhanced sanitation and strict limits on the number of people allowed inside a polling location at any one time. 

"It's marked for you," Ann Vine of Lawrenceville said about the social distancing set up inside the Gwinnett County Board of Elections. 

Advance voting will be the first test of those new protocols in what is a major election year now complicated by a global pandemic.  Both the March presidential primary and the May general primary were pushed back to June because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

"The counties are really trying to be responsive to the situation, but also to their voters," explained Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. 

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In Gwinnett County, that meant using a massive space at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds to maximize the distance between voters.

"We've lost three locations that we used to use for advanced in-person voting because we could not accommodate for social distancing," explained Gwinnett Communications Director Joe Sorenson.  "This is probably the best facility we have in the county with all the space inside to help keep people safe and make them feel safe." 

Elections officials said voters should be prepared to possibly wait in line because limiting the headcount inside a polling place and sanitizing the equipment between voters takes longer than normal.  The ballot also takes a while to complete with not only the presidential race, but also many local races to decide. 

Early voting began Monday and runs through June 5, though Sec. Raffensperger still encourages voters to sign up for an absentee by mail ballot.  So far, one and half million Georgians have requested absentee ballots for the primary. 

RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

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