BAY MINETTE – Baldwin County was no exception to the national trend of voters casting ballots by mail in the Nov. 3 general election with absentee ballots triple the usual numbers, Clerk of Courts Jody Wise said on election day.
On Tuesday morning, Wise sent 32 boxes containing 13,497 accepted absentee ballots to be processed and counted. She said another 1,360 still had to be processed and more were expected later in the day. Including provisional ballots and rejected ballots, which were often forms that were lost in the mail and had to be replaced, the total number of absentee ballots in the 2020 general election is more than 15,000, Wise said.
“It’s over triple what we normally do on a presidential election. Usually, 5,000 about normal for a presidential, even Obama, that one was really big. It’s been crazy. We had a ton of walk-ins and, of course, the mail ins as well and I’m still getting calls today,” Wise said.
In addition to some people wanting to vote by mail out of concern over COVID-19, poll officials and voter registration staff members have also had to help voters dislocated by Hurricanes Sally and Zeta,” Wise said.
“It has been absolutely nuts. My report is 1,896 pages,” Wise laughed and shook her head. “I haven’t printed it. I’ve just looked at it.”
She said that in the past, poll workers began counting absentee ballots after polls closed on election day. This year, the count began at 7 a.m. Counting was completed late Tuesday night.
In a secure hurricane shelter building in Bay Minette, workers behind a locked steel door opened each envelope, confirmed that the ballot was valid. Other workers fed each ballot into two voting machines.
Wise said the process was tedious.
“My whole office had to be involved,” she said. “Everybody worked really, really hard. They gave me two extras, but everybody had to chip in and they really gave a team effort and they did an awesome job.”
Wise said the process of dealing with absentee ballots has been going on for months, through the primaries and runoffs in the spring and summer.
“I’ve been doing absentee all year. The whole year. It actually started before January. I had more than 800 applications for the general before the runoff in July, which was moved from March, so we had questions on that,” Wise said.
She said calls were still coming in on Tuesday.
“They want to know where do I go to vote? When will my provisional be counted? If I move, where do I go? Those that have moved and need to go to a different place, I put those to the Board of Registrars. I don’t want to send them to the wrong place,” Wise said.
She said that even though the process has been very busy this year, she and staff members have enjoyed working with voters.
I love helping them, 99 percent of the people are really appreciative and really nice even if you’re not telling them what they want to hear. They actually really appreciate you calling them back,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed doing it, but this one’s been a challenge.”