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Finding a Georgia absentee ballot application is not easy, but upgrades are planned

Absentee ballot application links are buried on the Secretary of State's website -- but they can be found with a Google search.

ATLANTA — Finding an application for an absentee ballot on the Georgia Secretary of State's website can be a bit of an adventure -- unless you bypass the site altogether and search on Google.

The agency says they are building an online portal for absentee ballots, which will be available in time for the November general election. 

But, for now, if you visit the agency which runs the state of Georgia's elections, the application for absentee ballots is not very easy to find.

On the Secretary of State's home page, there's information about how to become a poll worker. It has links for corporations, licensing, securities and cemeteries and even election results. 

But the words "absentee ballot" are not to be found, nor is there a direct link.

There isn't even a search function on the home page.

One might be tempted by the "Elections" link on the page

There, you'll find election dates, information on military voting, how to register to vote and where to vote. You'll find several other votes, but nothing there that says "Absentee Ballots."

On the "Frequently Asked Questions" page, there is nothing present about absentee ballots.

However, while on the Elections page, if you click on the "Voter Info" tab, you'll see another link to "Absentee Voting."

Clicking on that link takes you to a page with more links producing absentee ballot applications and directions on where to send them.

"An internet experience should be easy and intuitive, said Jeanne Dufort, an elections activist in Morgan County. "And the Secretary of State's website as pertains to voters, simply, is not."

The Secretary of State's office says it spent $8 million earlier this year educating people about absentee voting, when the state sent absentee ballot applications to every voter in Georgia.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has not abated, the office says it cannot afford to send applications once again to voters for the August runoff and November general elections. 

That is forcing voters to search the applications out for themselves -- many for the first time.

Going to Google and searching for absentee voting yields several links from the Secretary of State's office website.

You could get a PDF application to fill out -- and then you'd have to do a separate search to find out where to send it. Or, you could find a link with the application and destination all on the same page.

The Secretary of State's office says they have optimized their site in order to accommodate Google searches -- which they have said make up the vast majority of searches for absentee ballots.

Very few people search the Secretary of State's website, a spokesperson said.

The Secretary of State is working with a vendor to install a robust online portal for absentee ballot applications, which is not expected to go online until later in the summer.

Meanwhile, in response to our questions, a spokesperson says the office plans to add an absentee ballot link to the home page of the Secretary of State's web site.


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