With a pandemic still surging and a presidential election on the horizon, it’s not a huge surprise that more than a million Georgia voters requested absentee ballots by mid-September. Although absentee voting has long been a part of Georgia elections and every registered voter is eligible for an absentee ballot, many will be using the method this year for the first time. Here’s how to request a ballot—yes, there’s still time—and how to ensure it gets counted.
Do I need a reason to request an absentee ballot?
No. You just need to be registered to vote in Georgia.
How do I apply for an absentee ballot?
Complete an application online (all you need is your county, state ID number, birth date, and legal name). Alternatively, you can fill out this PDF and return to your county board of registrars via mail, fax, or email. You will need to sign the PDF application, so make sure it matches the signature the state has on file on your ID. October 30 is the last day to request an absentee ballot, and if you do request a ballot that late, be prepared to put your ballot in a drop box, rather than send by mail, to ensure it arrives in time.
What if I never receive my absentee ballot in the mail?
Double-check the ballot tracker on the state’s My Voter Page to see where your ballot is in the process. If you’re still unsure, contact your county board of registrars to figure out if you have time to request another absentee ballot or if you should plan to vote in-person. If you do end up voting in-person, be sure to tell the poll worker that you never received your absentee ballot, so they can cancel your absentee ballot. If you still feel unsure about the process and want more guidance, you can call a voter protection hotline from voting advocacy groups like Fair Fight (888-730-5816) or the Election Protection coalition (866-OUR-VOTE).
When does my absentee ballot need to be returned by?
Despite some fighting in the courts, your ballot must be received by your county election office—not just postmarked—by the time the polls close on Election Day: 7 p.m. on November 3.
Can I trust the mail to return my ballot in time?
Yes, but expect delays. The United States Postal Service recommends you allow at least one week for delivery, which means your ballot should be postmarked by October 27 to hit Georgia’s Election Day deadline. Stamps are required, but technically USPS should deliver your ballot regardless of if you have the correct postage.
Can I drop my ballot off in person?
If you’d prefer not to use the mail or want to save money on stamps, you can drop off your ballot at one of your county’s drop boxes anytime before 7 p.m. on November 3. Here are dropbox locations for Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties. Clayton County’s dropbox is located at Clayton County Board of Elections & Registration, 121 South McDonough Street, Jonesboro.
Drop boxes are arguably the most secure way to return your absentee ballot. They are nailed to the ground on government or county property, tamper-proof, and under 24-hour video surveillance. If you’re monitoring your absentee ballot status, note that the drop boxes are emptied every 72 hours.
How do I ensure my absentee ballot is counted?
You can use the My Voter Page to track the status of your ballot all the way from your request to the ballot’s acceptance. It’s like the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, but for politics.
What can disqualify my absentee ballot?
The biggest disqualification would be if the ballot is received after 7 p.m. on November 3. Beyond that, following instructions is key: Make sure to fill in the bubbles completely with black or blue ink. Check marks or Xs cannot be read by the scanner. Then insert your ballot in the oath and privacy envelope and sign that before you put it in the outer envelope. Many absentee ballots are rejected because of a failure to sign the envelope.
What happens if my ballot is rejected before Election Day?
Don’t panic. Your county board of registrars should contact you to “cure,” or correct your ballot envelope. This is why it’s vital to return your ballot as early as possible to handle any hiccups that come up before Election Day.
I changed my mind; can I still vote in person?
If your absentee ballot has been accepted, it counts as your vote for the election and any attempt to vote again is considered voter fraud. But if you haven’t yet submitted your absentee ballot, you can still vote in person. Just bring your absentee ballot to your polling place and hand it to a poll worker, who will cancel your absentee ballot and allow you to vote in person.