By Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Georgia voters wondering if their absentee ballots will be counted can now receive text messages, emails or phone calls to track their ballot’s progress.
A service called BallotTrax launched Friday to allow voters to sign up for alerts when their absentee ballots are issued, received and accepted.
The notifications will build confidence that absentee ballots have made their way through the system, said Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
“It’s going to give more transparency and information in a timely manner,” Sterling said. “This is another tool we’re giving voters to be informed and be comfortable with their vote, however they choose to vote.”
The notifications will reflect the same absentee ballot information that’s already available on the state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. But instead of having to frequently check online, voters will be alerted when their ballot status changes.
Ballot tracking through the U.S. Postal Service isn’t included through BallotTrax because of the difficulty of setting it up this close to the Nov. 3 election, Sterling said. Mail tracking could be added in future elections.
Steve Olsen, president of Denver-based BallotTrax, said voters need faith that their absentee ballots will be counted, especially in a state like Georgia where so many people are new to voting by mail. After 220,000 people voted absentee in the 2018 general election, an estimated 1.7 million could return absentee ballots this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s about peace of mind,” Olsen said. “They don’t trust that their vote is going to be counted if it goes into a black hole and they never hear about it. With BallotTrax, they know not only that the ballot has been accepted, but they can watch it flow through the process.”
If voters never receive a notification that their ballot has been received by their county’s elections office, they can contact local election officials to find out if something went wrong, Olsen said. BallotTrax will also let voters know if absentee ballots are rejected, giving them time to correct problems with missing or mismatched signatures.
Voters can sign up for BallotTrax at georgia.ballottrax.net by entering their name, birth date and zip code.
Absentee ballots began to be mailed last week, and over 1.2 million voters have requested absentee ballots so far.
The deadline for absentee ballots to be returned remains unsettled in Georgia.
A federal judge ruled last month that absentee ballots should be counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day and received at county election offices within three days afterward. But that decision is being appealed by the secretary of state’s office in an effort to restore Georgia’s absentee ballot deadline at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Election officials say voters can ensure their ballots will be counted by returning them well in advance.