ATLANTA — Many households are beginning to receive the absentee ballot request forms that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office is sending to every voter in the state.
The secretary of state's office is hoping to encourage more mail-in voting with the ballots, in a state where about 95 percent of ballots are cast in person, to try and relieve some of the pressure at the polls during the coronavirus pandemic.
Just today, the secretary of state delayed primary voting for a second time as the state grapples with how to best balance social distancing requirements with the difficult-to-socially-distance act of mass voting.
Interest is high in the absentee ballot request forms - elections officials for Fulton County, the state's largest jurisdiction, said Thursday they'd already processed nearly 6,500 of the request forms.
If you're one of the many Georgia voters looking into this process for the first time, here's a bit of important info:
The term itself might cause a bit of confusion. They are, in most every sense, the same thing.
Some headlines use "mail-in voting" because it more simply describes the process and immediately makes sense. "Absentee" simply means you are absent at the physical poll (somewhat oddly, Georgia also uses the term "absentee voting in-person" to mean what's commonly referred to as early voting.)
In any case, the process is simple: The request form is pre-populated with the voter's name and street address, along with the return mailing address of the county voting office they need to return the application to.
It should be filled out and signed, then affixed with a stamp and returned to the registration office noted on the mailer.
In the event a voter does not have a stamp, they are permitted to scan or take a picture of the completed and signed application and email it to the address provided on the application. The email address is different for each county.
An absentee ballot will then be mailed to the voter for them to complete and return.
Please note if you receive the ballot in the mail at that point, you cannot fill it out and physically bring it to a polling site and cast it. It must be mailed to count. You can, if you wish still go vote in person on Election Day even if you've already received a ballot, though you may need to bring the absentee ballot with you and surrender it to polling workers.
The Cobb County elections office puts it this way: A voted absentee ballot cannot be accepted at an Election Day polling place; however, a voter can surrender the ballot at the poll and vote in-person instead.
For more information on voting by mail in Georgia, review this guidance from the secretary of state's office.
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