“The sheer flood of disinformation has undermined people's faith,” said Gabriel Sterling, one of the top officials in the secretary of state’s office. “At the end of the day, what that means is you don't trust your neighbor who's running the election. ... And that's really weighing on a lot of them.”

“We've had to close our elections office twice because of potential exposures to Covid-19,” said Marjorie Howard, the chair of the board of elections in Talbot County, a tiny county of about 4,500 registered voters. “It just so happened, thank God … it was not during an election week. Because that would have been horrible.”

“Not everyone is following the advice and not having large family gatherings or going to Christmas gatherings,” said Joseph Kirk, the elections supervisor for Bartow County. “All we can do right now is plan for contingencies, have a plan B available, and hope we don't have to use it.”

Election offices’ budgets have exploded under the strain. “This will go down as the most expensive election time in my career,” Bailey said. “We went into November with an election, when planned for back in the summer of 2019, came in at a budget of around $160,000. And I think the best estimate right now is that that election will come in at about $650,000.”

“But it’s been difficult,” she continued, praising her staff. “You are physically tired, you are mentally tired. You are basically exhausted. But we know that we have to keep going on.”