From left, County Executive Ted Rumley, EMS Director Alex Case and Elections Supervisor Lowanna Vaughan at Tuesday's "Town Hall" session on voting.
Even with the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order lifted in Georgia, COVID-19 itself continues infecting new patients every day, and the Dade County government has responded by continuing its daily livestreamed briefings this week.
On Monday the session was abbreviated, without much new information. But on Tuesday it was expanded into an information session on the upcoming primary election that the county called a town hall. In fact, the social distancing rules dictated by the COVID-19 situation make a real town hall meeting, with public attendance, impractical. However, 5 p.m. Monday, May 11, is the deadline to register to vote in the primary and COVID-19 has so complicated this election year that county leaders clearly felt questions needed answering.
But first, County Executive Ted Rumley’s daily COVID-19 report:
Case numbers continue to grow, statewide in alarming jumps, here in the Tri-State area much smaller ones. Dade itself had been at 16 last week on the Georgia Department of Health’s Dade Status Report, had dropped back down to 15 through some unclarified adjustment over the weekend, then was bumped back to 16 by Tuesday at noon. By 7 p.m. Tuesday it was up to 17, and numbers are expected to rise as Dade starts in-county testing on Thursday.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, Georgia cases were 30,506 and deaths at 1299, up from noon Friday numbers of 27,437 and 1159. That’s 3069 cases and 140 new deaths since The Planet last listed the numbers Friday afternoon, and counts will be updated at noon and 7 p.m. today. Readers may check the numbers for themselves by clicking The DPH logo here. Locally, of course, the situation is much less alarming though, again, cases do mount. Surrounding counties in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama seem to add 2-10 cases daily. “We’re not through with this yet,” said Rumley.
The county did, as previously announced, open its business offices in the Administrative Building back up on Monday, with a mask-wearing rule—you can request one if you didn’t bring your own—and a sanitation station where visitors are asked to disinfect their hands before entering. The adjoining Justice Building, where the sheriff’s office and jail are housed, remain closed until the state resumes its driver’s license services there. “We don’t have any control of that,” said Rumley.
Trenton's Southeastern Lineman Training Center has convened its new class and Rumley said COVID-19 testing on students was going smoothly there. School co-owner David Powell will be on today’s livestream at 3 p.m. to report on that, said Rumley.
Speaking of testing, remember that this Thursday, May 7, is Dade’s first crack at local testing. The DPH will conduct drive-through COVID-19 swab testing from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Four Fields, the county athletic complex on Highway 11 South between Trenton and Rising Fawn. Tests are free to the public but you must call first—call 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., (706) 802-5329—and be given a testing number. If you don’t have a number, you will not be turned away but you will lose your place in line as you go through the screening process on-site. DPH will be conducting another testing session at the Four Fields next Thursday, May 14, same hours.
In other business, Rumley said he’d received complaints about the county’s burn pit as employees dispose of the masses of debris left by Dade’s Easter tornado. “Please just bear with us,” said Rumley. “There was a lot of debris that you can’t see from the road.” The burning should wrap up in the next week or two, he promised. He said he’d also had complaints about the mowers going down highways 136 and 11. The mowers are employed by a state contractor, said Rumley; if you’ve got problems with them please call him and he’ll call the state. Rumley’s number is (423) 667-8999.
Speaking of complaints, county 911 director and, incidentally, Trenton Mayor Alex Case said he’d gotten some about the Hyper-Reach emergency system. Call his office, he said, if you’ve had problems getting your warnings and he ought to be able to fix you up. That’s (706) 657-4111. He also reminded anybody who hasn’t already to go ahead and sign up—only spotty storms are called for in the current weather forecast but that can change quickly. You can sign up for Hyper-Reach at the county website, dadecounty-ga.gov.
In his capacity as mayor, Case fielded the almost-daily questions regarding the Trenton public pool. “That’s one of the things that we’re waiting to see next week,” he said. May 13 may begin the next phase of reopening, said Case, but those guidelines come from the state and federal governments. Limitations may be required even when the pool does open. “We’re waiting to next week to see what the next step is,” said Case. Same story with the Jenkins Park playground and the Trenton Civic Center. The city’s had to return deposits and cancel reservations for gatherings there, said Case, but can do nothing about reopening it without a concrete answer from governor.
Now, about voting:
Case and Rumley brought in elections supervisor Lowanna Vaughan to answer questions about the polling situation at the town hall portion of Tuesday’s meeting. The first message the three imparted was: Make sure you’re registered to vote. Deadline for registration for the general primary is 5 p.m. next Monday, the 11th. If you haven’t voted in the last two presidential elections your name may have been stricken off the rolls. In any case, if you’re unsure it won’t hurt to check.
You can do that easily at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Here’s a link:
You can also register to vote there. Or if you have difficulty doing that you can always call Ms. Vaughan’s office at (706) 657-8170. Voter registration are also available outside the elections board office at the Administrative Building.
All Georgia voters were sent a request for absentee ballot form this year. If you mailed yours and received an absentee ballot, you can either mail the ballot in or drop it in the ballot box the county is installing outside the Administrative Building. Rumley said the county is trying to arrange the box so that you can cast your ballot without getting out of your car but if that isn’t possible you may have to park and walk a few steps.
If you’d rather vote in person, early voting starts May 19 at the Administrative Building 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday. Saturday voting is Saturday, May 30, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Election Day is June 9.
All early voting will be at the Administrative Building but on Election Day you may vote at your precinct from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Dade has seven precincts and those polling places are: West Brow--West Brow Community Center, 131 Griffin Road, Lookout Mountain; New Salem—New Salem Community Center, 12477 Highway 136 East; North Dade—Wildwood Community Center, 63 Wawona Drive, Wildwood; Trenton--Dade Administrative Building on the town square; New Home—New Home Community Center, 3565 New Home Road, Sand Mountain; Davis--White Oak Baptist Church, 5491 Highway 301 North; and South Dade, 263 School Street, Rising Fawn. All these are listed on the county website.
If you applied for and got the absentee ballot, but would rather vote in person, you may do so. Please bring your absentee ballot to the polling place and surrender it. If you threw it away or otherwise don’t have it, you can still vote in person but will be required to write out a brief statement to that effect.
March's Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) was postponed because of the COVID-19 crisis and eventually combined with the regular primary scheduled for May 19, which was of course also postponed to June 9. Adding to the confusion is the fact that early voting had already started for the PPP when the crisis came to Georgia. But Lowanna Vaughan says that if you did not early-vote in the PPP, your general primary ballot will still afford you the opportunity to vote in it. If you did early-vote, your primary ballot will not include it.
A point Case, Rumley and Ms. Vaughan made is that since this election is a primary, you must pick a party ballot and in Dade this year that means you must pick Republican if you wish to vote in the local contested races, as no local candidates are running as Democrats. The local judgeships are nonpartisan and included on all ballots—and are in any case uncontested.
One question the officials answered was: “What if I moved from Walker to Dade?” Or from anywhere else, for that matter. The answer: Just fill out the registration form. “It’s the same form to register and to change your address,” said Ms. Vaughan. You can also change your voter registration when you renew your driver’s license, she said.
Here are some more dates: Aug. 11 is the runoff date for any races that need runoffs. Nov. 3 is the general election. To vote in that you must have registered by Oct. 5.
Ms. Vaughan is still seeking poll workers. Training will be conducted remotely, she said, for additional COVID-19 safety. Extraordinary measures are being taken at the polls this year to keep both the poll workers and the voters safe from infection.
Rumley stressed a final point in that regard: “People don’t need to be scared to come in here to vote,” he said. “We’re taking all the precautions you can ever imagine.”
These livestreamed sessions from the Administrative Building will continue from day to day as the pandemic endures. Next Tuesday the county government will have another “town hall” with more non-COVID-19 information. You can be alerted when the county goes live by “liking” the Dade County Ga. Facebook page.