ATLANTA — There is increased scrutiny on absentee ballots in Georgia and across the United States, especially with fears of post office delays in the weeks leading up to the November general election.
The Georgia Secretary of State's office says that, by law, any Georgia voter may request an absentee ballot up to 180 days prior to Election Day. And unlike some states, there is no specific excuse required in order to vote by absentee in Georgia.
The state allows absentee voting by mail and in person.
The Georgia Secretary of State's office will begin mailing absentee ballots for the November General Election to Georgia citizens on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
Can I apply for my absentee ballot online in Georgia?
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office recently opened a secure online portal that allows access for registered voters to apply for absentee ballots directly, without having to mail in a paper application.
At a news conference on Sept. 8, Raffensperger said that ordinarily, about 5 percent of voters are expected to use absentee ballots. During the 2020 election cycle, up to 50 percent of Georgia's voters are expected to vote absentee, he said.
In order to use the online portal, voters must submit their name, date of birth, the county where they are registered to vote, and their Georgia drivers license number or official state identification number.
For authorized relatives assisting elderly or disabled family members, the previous absentee ballot application must still be used. That ballot application must be completed and returned to their county registration office.
Applications are permitted to be returned by mail, fax, as an email attachment, or in-person to your local county Board of Registrar's Office.
How do I know if I am registered to vote in Georgia?
The first step is to ensure your voting status -- which can be accomplished on the Secretary of State's My Voter Page.
By entering your first initial, last name, county of residence and date of birth on that page, you can determine if you are registered to vote in Georgia. If so, you will find your registration information, the name and address of your precinct and a link to the early voting location for your county.
The page will also list your US Congressional District, your Georgia Senate District and Georgia House District, with links to each of those persons' official web pages.
Links to a full list of qualified candidates in the upcoming election (along with the past several elections) are also provided.
If you are not currently registered to vote, you will be provided with a link to register to vote.
The deadline to register to vote in the November General Election is Monday, October 5, 2020.
How do I fill out the paper form to apply for an absentee ballot in Georgia?
If you are registered to vote, on the left side of the page, you will find a link to an absentee ballot application.
The application is a PDF form, which may be filled out online before printing it out or may be printed out as a blank form to be filled out by hand.
In either event, the date of the upcoming election you are applying for would go at the top of the form -- the date of the upcoming November General Election is November 3, 2020.
This would be followed by your full name in Box 1, followed by your permanent home address as listed on your voter registration in Box 2.
If you do not want your ballot sent to your permanent, home address, then the address where you would like your ballot sent would go into Box 3 -- otherwise, that box would be left blank.
Your date of birth would go into Box 4.
Box 5 is only used for primary elections. For the November General Election, it is left blank.
Place a current contact telephone number and email address into Box 6, in the event there is a problem with your ballot application, so that county officials may contact you, if necessary.
Box 7 is where you sign and date your application.
If you are assisting someone with their application -- usually a disabled relative -- then your printed name, followed by your signature would go into Box 8.
Box 9 is used in the event if you are requesting a ballot on behalf of someone who is either physically disabled or temporarily living outside of the county.
This sometimes happens with parents requesting applications for college students or relatives requesting applications on behalf of individuals temporarily residing overseas or other places where they cannot access the application.
In Box 10, an applicant may indicate if they match one of the described conditions, and would like to receive a mail ballot for the remainder of the current election cycle, including runoff elections, without making another application.
This includes those who are 65 and older, physically disabled, and uniformed service members or their dependents -- or other US citizens -- living overseas.
After completing the form and signing it, it must be returned to your local county's Board of Registrar's Office. This may be done via US Mail, fax, as an email attachment, or in person.
You can find contact information for each county's board of registrars office listed here.