By Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Georgia voters can now go online to order an absentee ballot for November’s election, eliminating the need to download and mail a paper form.
The secretary of state’s office launched the website Friday to help handle record numbers of voters expected to cast absentee ballots in this year’s presidential election. The site is available at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov.
The website reduces the risk that election officials will overlookabsentee ballot applications or incorrectly type in voters’ information, problems that surfaced before Georgia’s June 9 primary.
The site instantly transmits ballot requests to county election officials, avoiding potential delays in mail delivery. Voters can choose to receive an automatically generated email confirming that their request has been received.
“Voters are going to feel better about it,” said Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office. “The fewer human beings it has to go through in the process, the less errors you’re going to have.”
Georgia election officials are encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, reducing the number of people at the polls on Election Day.
Voters can sign up to receive absentee ballots now, but they won’t begin to be mailed until late September.
FAQ about Georgia absentee ballot request website
Q: Can anyone use this website?
A: Any registered Georgia voter is eligible to request and cast an absentee ballot. State law has allowed any voter to use an absentee ballot since 2005.
Q: What information do I need to enter?
A: Voters need to type five pieces of information to get started: their first name, last name, birth date, county, and driver’s license or state ID number. Then on the next screen, they can choose what address their ballot should be mailed to and enter an email address to receive a confirmation that their application has been received. Voters who are over 65 years old, physically disabled or living overseas are eligible to sign up to receive an absentee ballot for future elections in this election cycle.
Q: How does the website check my identity?
A: The absentee ballot request website matches information with voter registration records. If your name, birth date, county and ID don’t match, you won’t be able to proceed. After three failed attempts, the website will direct you to fill out a PDF applicationthat can be mailed or emailed to county election offices.
Q: Is a signature required?
A: No signature is needed when applying for an absentee ballot through the state’s website, according to a State Election Board rule approved this month. Signatures are still required on paper absentee ballot request forms.
Q: Why was this absentee ballot request website created?
A: Record numbers of Georgia voters cast absentee ballots in the June 9 primary after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mailedabsentee applications to 6.9 million active voters. The website replaces the mailers for the general election, saving taxpayer money and reducing human errors, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Some voters will still receive paper absentee ballot applications in the mail from nonprofit groups rather than the state government.
Q: Can I track my absentee ballot online?
A: The status of absentee ballot requests will be reflected on the My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov after county election officials accept them. Then voters will be able to see the date their absentee ballot application was received, the date their ballot was issued, and the date the completed ballot was received by the county. U.S. Postal Service tracking of absentee ballots isn’t available.
Q: When will absentee ballots arrive at voters’ homes?
A: Absentee ballots will begin to be mailed to voters around Sept. 18, which is 46 days before the Nov. 3 election, Sterling said. Under Georgia law, absentee ballots must begin to be mailed between 45 and 49 days prior to Election Day.
Absentee applications submitted before mid-September will be mailed in a large batch by Arizona-based Runbeck Election Services, a subcontractor of the state’s voting equipment company. That mailing will include about 565,000 ballots for voters over age 65, overseas or with physical disabilities who were eligible to automatically be sent absentee ballots for the rest of this election cycle. Over 100,000 more voters have already applied for absentee ballots.
After that first wave, county election offices will take over the mailing of absentee ballots.
Q: How long will it take for absentee ballots to arrive?
A: Voters should account for the time it will take for absentee ballots to arrive through the mail. The U.S. Postal Service recommended allowing at least one week for completed absentee ballots to be delivered to county election offices. State law requires absentee ballots to be received at election offices before polls close on Nov. 3, but that deadline is being challenged in federal court.
Voters can also skip the U.S. Postal Service and instead deposit their absentee ballots in drop boxes set up in many counties.