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Georgia to debut online portal to request absentee ballots

The new site will process absentee ballot applications.

ATLANTA — The state will unveil its online absentee ballot application portal next week so Georgia voters will no longer have to ask with a paper form.

The goal is to make voting by mail easier – which has become a politically charged issue this election year. 

The state is testing its absentee ballot portal this week. State officials say if there are no bugs, they can unveil it Monday. Voters can begin casting absentee ballots in the last half of September.

Absentee ballots were very popular in the June primary – as people opted to avoid long lines during a dangerous pandemic. 

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The online portal in the Secretary of State's website will have a "request" button. You will then be asked to enter your county, your name and other personal info – and it takes you to a spot where you can get a ballot without requiring a signature.

"All it really is, is your first name, your last name, your date of birth, your drivers license or state ID number, and your county," said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting system implementation manager. 

"From those pieces of information, the system will identify you as an individual voter. And then it will allow you into the actual 'request' section of the portal," he added.

RELATED: Georgia groups work to register voters during pandemic as Facebook unveils voter education feature

The new site will not require voters to print the request form and fill it out by hand, as the Secretary of State's site currently requires. 

Sterling says the online interface will eliminate the need for county election workers to key-in information they normally get on a piece of paper, making the process faster and more efficient. This spring, Fulton County struggled to key in such data in time to send many of its requested absentee ballots.

The result from the online portal will be an absentee ballot, sent to your mailbox, which you can drop in a box in some counties – or send in the U.S. Mail to vote in November’s election.  

In so doing, the Republican Secretary of State is trying to sidestep a rising controversy over mail-in voting, led by the Republican president.

RELATED: Trump requests mail-in ballot after railing against mail-in voting

In a speech to the Republican convention Monday, President Trump warned "we have to be careful because they’re trying it again, this whole eighty million mail-in ballots thing they're working on," referring to Democrats.

Trump was referring to unsolicited mail-in ballots arriving in mailboxes, while saying he is OK with absentee voting. Trump himself votes absentee.

"The voter has to sign" the actual absentee ballot, said Sterling. "So we know it’s you actually voting" by matching with signatures on file from when the voter registered.

The Secretary of State’s My Voter site will let voters track their absentee ballots – to see if they are accepted or rejected.  

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