NORTH ATLANTA, Ga. — Whether on the ballot or casting a ballot, whether voting from the left or the right, there is one thing most Americans can agree on — there is a lot at stake for this election. The pressure has turned the Peach State into an unexpected battleground.
Also unexpected is the coronavirus which has raised interest in vote-by-mail nationwide, as an alternative to large crowds at the polls.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has mailed 6.9 million absentee ballot request forms to registered voters in Georgia. The department website says the mailing was an effort to give as many Georgians as possible their right to vote without leaving their homes.
A recent New York Times and Sienna College survey found 18 percent of Georgians planned to submit mail-in ballots.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said 1.6 million Georgians have so far registered to vote by mail.
“Georgia is a leader in election access,” Raffensperger said. “Notwithstanding the pandemic, voters in the Peach State can take advantage of no-excuse absentee ballot voting by mail or through a secure drop box; three weeks of early, in-person voting; or Election Day voting.”
Early voting began in Georgia on Oct. 12. According to state data, within the first eight days, 675,825 mail-in ballots were received. That’s more than six times the number recorded during the same period in 2016.
A closer look at Fulton County shows about 211,000 absentee ballots were mailed out. Richard Barron, the county elections chief, said as of Oct. 21, approximately 96,000 absentee ballots have been returned and processed.
Raffensperger’s office describes the state’s voting system as “the gold-standard.” While many absentee ballots have been delivered and submitted, Fulton County election officials said they have heard from concerned voters who have yet to receive their ballot in the mail.
“We do get calls,” Barron said. “I think part of the reason is the state set up a vendor for all of the counties to use and the ballots were being mailed from Arizona.”
As of Oct. 16, those ballots are now being distributed from within Fulton County. Barron said it usually takes two weeks for a ballot to show up in your mailbox. However, some residents had not received their ballots after three weeks.
“Most of the issues that we have are people just waiting to get the ballots in the mail,” said Barron. “We’ve had to reissue some ballots.”
Overall, Barron said the absentee ballot process is going smoothly in Fulton County. But for those who have not received their mail-in ballot, state officials said there are steps to follow.
Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said voters always have the options of voting in-person and canceling that ballot or request one at their nearest early voting location.”
Election officials have also provided online tools to help voters check the delivery and acceptance status of their mail-in ballot. Those resources can be found on the Georgia Secretary of State website.
Raffensperger said some voters who requested their ballots by mail, changed their minds and showed up at polling locations.
“What I would really encourage is that the 1.6 million people who requested absentee ballots actually send them in, and not show up in person,” Raffensperger said.
The Secretary of State added that he has seen some of the longest lines in Roswell and the North Fulton area. Raffensperger said he would at least like to have 1.5 million ballots returned, because the added time to cancel a ballot puts more stress on county workers and increases wait times.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot in Georgia is Oct. 30, which is also the final day of early voting. Mail-in ballots are available to any Georgian who is a registered voter. Find further instructions via the state’s website: https://georgia.gov/vote-absentee-ballot
They can be delivered in person to the county registrar or placed in a ballot drop box.