Douglas County’s top elections official said he has had no issue in processing absentee ballots from residents who have requested them for the Nov. 3 election.
As of Thursday, the elections office had sent out 19,704 absentee ballots, including 19,549 paper ballots and 155 electronic ballots for those living overseas or serving in the military, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.
The office had received 874 completed ballots as of Thursday, the website said.
Douglas County has more than 100,000 registered voters.
Milton Kidd, elections supervisor for Douglas County, said he has not had issues with backlogs of ballot applications, unlike elections officials in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties this month. Kidd’s office began sending ballots to those who had requested them on Sept. 15.
In those counties, elections officials were dealing with a combined 5,440 ballot applications submitted through the state’s website that had yet to be processed on Monday, according to the secretary of state’s website.
State law requires elections officials in all 159 counties to begin sending out ballots no later than 49 days before an election. Residents can request ballots up to 180 days before Election Day.
More than 1.1 million absentee ballots were cast by voters across the state during the June primary, according to the Georgia Public Broadcasting website. Even more people are likely to vote absentee on Nov. 3, when more than 5 million Georgians are expected to participate either by mail or in-person. All registered voters are eligible to request an absentee ballot online at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov, or by returning a paper application form available from the secretary of state’s website.
Once voters receive their absentee ballots, they can return them through the mail, at any of the Douglas County drop boxes, or directly to staff at the elections office.
Drop boxes have been set up by the dozens for voters who prefer not to show up in-person at a polling place to deposit absentee ballots ahead of the November election. They are anchored to the ground, monitored by surveillance video and can only be opened by poll workers.
These boxes have been installed in roughly 75% of Georgia’s 159 counties, including Douglas and Carroll counties. They are located on government properties such as county elections offices, courthouses, city halls and local commissions, according to the Capitol Beat website.
Early voting will begin on Oct. 12-30 at the Douglas County Courthouse, 8700 Hospital Drive, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. From Oct. 19-30, residents can cast their ballots at the Boundary Water Aquatic Center (5000 Highway 92), the Dog River Library (6100 Highway 5), Deer Lick Park (2105 Mack Rd.), and Old Courthouse (6754 Church St.) from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
On Oct. 30, residents can also cast advanced ballots at the Church at Chapel Hill, 5337 Chapel Hill Rd., and at the Atlanta West Pentecostal Church, 2960 Skyview Dr., in Lithia Springs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All public school buildings in Douglas County are now open, but they’re less than half full, according to numbers from the school system.
In-person learning resumed Monday at the high school level in Douglas County as part of the phased-in reopening of schools that started Sept. 8 with elementary schools and continued Sept. 14 with middle schools.
District-wide, 44.1% of students returned to in-person learning in Douglas County as of Sept. 21, according to numbers provided by Portia Lake, spokesperson for the school system.
Elementary schools have the largest number of students choosing in-person learning so far, with 47% of students back at their respective schools as of Monday; 40.4% of middle school students have returned to in-person learning; and just 38.2% of high school students have chosen in-person learning.
Students and parents will have a choice throughout the school year to continue with one of the online learning options Douglas County started the school year with on Aug. 17 or to return to in-person learning.
“We have given our parents a choice,” Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said earlier this month. “Parents have the ability to choose between in-person learning or virtual learning for the 2020-2021 school year. For those families who have chosen in-person learning, they can do so with confidence. Our school administrators have taken careful, thoughtful steps to keep our students and educators as safe as possible.”
North on Thursday outlined what he called “successes” and “challenges” so far.
He said the school system “made many careful and thoughtful decisions” under the direction of the school board that “has allowed our students to safely resume face to face learning.”
All students and staff are required to wear masks except during times when it is deemed safe.
The school system is also taking other precautionary measures with in-person learning including checking the temperatures of everyone entering the building using special kiosks, social distancing and using soap, hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.
North praised teachers and staff members who he said “have all done a phenomenal job of coordinating efforts to keep our schools as safe as possible.”
He also praised the Students Services Department for its efforts and school nurses who he said “have remained positive” while serving students and staff. And he said parents and families who have chosen to stick with digital learning and those who chose to move to in-person learning “are helping keep our schools safe.” He added that students are “quickly adjusting and transitioning to new COVID-19 guidelines.”
“These factors have allowed us to ensure adequate social distancing in our school system,” North said. “This has allowed our school system to be put in a different category with how we respond to COVID 19. While the state reports our county still has a high spread of COVID-19, I am pleased that Douglas County’s numbers are in a downward trend.”
As far as challenges, North said one is “not becoming complacent in our efforts.” He said the school system “must remain diligent” in its efforts to meet all the standards and guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Cobb & Douglas Public Health.
North said contact tracing “is a daunting task this year.”
“It is not challenging, but it is a new task,” North said. “Contact tracing plays a critical role in preventing the spread of COVID 19. The sooner we notify the direct contacts, the lower the number of people quarantined or isolated.”
He said an additional challenge is “keeping our schools clean.”
All Douglas County schools are closed on Fridays so that they can be disinfected. North said American Facility Services, which provides custodians to all schools, had many employees who didn’t return to work, resulting in a custodial shortage.
North said American Facility Services is “aggressively working to fill these positions.”
Austell resident Peggy Lynch turned 100 years old on Sept. 18.
Lynch celebrated with a party last Saturday hosted by Jack and Pat Clower of Douglasville.
Lynch was joined by friends and family, including her niece Donna Lanigan Mora, who drove 15 hours from New Jersey to attend the party.
Lynch has been a member of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Lithia Springs since 1973.
“If there was an activity at SJV be it religious, service project, or a social, you would more than likely see Peggy Lynch among the members,” the church wrote in its Sept. 20 bulletin.
Lynch ministered as an altar server, hospitality minister, sang in the choir for 16 years, worked on the set-up for the Seder Meal, was the wine keeper for the International Dinner and an active member of the Council of Catholic Women.
When not at church, Lynch could be seen at CAMP (Sweetwater Community Action Mission Program), or on a Saturday morning at the St. Frances Table feeding the homeless.
Lynch was born in New York City, the oldest of six children; she grew up in New Jersey.
Lynch joined the workforce in 1945. She worked at an engineering company in Chattanooga and later in Atlanta as a sales associate for All State, from which she retired in 1987.
In 1956, she married JD “Red” Lynch, who was a football coach for Notre Dame Catholic High School in Chattanooga.
She and her husband came to Atlanta where her husband became the football coach at Georgia Military Academy, which is now Woodward Academy. Peggy became the head golf coach at the school. Red Lynch died in 1966.
Peggy volunteered for over 45 years at the emergency clinic of Grady Hospital as a Red Cross Nurses’ Aide. She also worked at the blood drives at Grady Hospital and at St. John Vianney, and she has donated 13 gallons of blood.
As an avid golfer, she parlayed that into service as a volunteer with the Atlanta Golf Classic for at least 27 years. She has walked with the pros keeping score as a “walking marker” for the benefit of Egleston Hospital for Children.
She also loves animals and has been a member of the Foster Cats and Kittens for the Cobb County Humane Society for over 25 years. She also recycles paper, glass, and aluminum with proceeds going to the Humane Society.
She has been twice recognized for her service to Grady Hospital. In 1988, she won the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award and in 1989 she received the Channel 11 Community Service Award. In 2019, she received the Council of Catholic Women Achievement Award.
The Douglas County School System has started publishing the number of new cases of COVID-19 at schools on its website.
The school system will update the website with numbers for the current week at the end of the day on Fridays.
The dedicated page showing new cases by school for the week can be accessed by going to the school system’s homepage at dcssga.org and choosing School Reopening at the top and then clicking on COVID-19 Cases on the page that comes up.
The page can be accessed directly at https://dcssga.org/school_reopening/c_o_v_i_d-19_cases.
Stats for the week ending Sept. 18 showed that Alexander High and Mason Creek Middle had two new cases for the week, and Burnett Elementary, Chapel Hill Elementary, Chapel Hill Middle, Mirror Lake Elementary and New Manchester High all had one case.
New numbers for the week ending Sept. 25 were expected to be posted after Sentinel press time on Friday.
A 30-year-old man was arrested by Villa Rica police Monday after a suspected explosive device was found during a vehicle stop.
Ricky Womack, 30, of Douglasville was arrested and charged with transporting an explosive device, no tag on vehicle, suspended license, possession of methamphetamines, possession of drug related objects, and theft by receiving stolen property.
On Monday at 9:46 a.m., a Villa Rica officer stopped a pick-up truck on Daisy Lane due to the vehicle not having a tag. The driver was identified as Womack, and police said he was driving with a suspended license and had active warrants through Carroll and Douglas County.
Womack was placed under arrest and during a search, police found what they said was methamphetamine in Womack’s pocket. Also during the search, officers found what they said was a small suspected explosive device made out of PVC pipe.
A Haralson County Department of Transportation traffic control sawhorse was also located in the bed of the truck.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit responded and met with the officers at the police department. The GBI agents were able to open the PVC pipe without igniting the contents and the contents have been sent to a lab for testing.
Womack’s bond was denied and as of Friday, he was in custody of the Carroll County Jail.