Coronavirus has changed just about everything this year, including voting. As it has across the country, voting by mail is setting records as thousands of Georgians want to avoid going to vote in person.
1) Request an absentee ballot
Georgia is one of 35 states where any registered voter can request a ballot by mail and vote absentee without needing any reason. County election officials began sending out its absentee ballots last week.
Four weeks before Election Day, county elections officials had processed more than 266,000 absentee votes -- more than the total returned in the last presidential election. Another 1.2 million ballots sent to voters have not been returned, but they have until Nov. 3 to mail them back or drop them off at their county’s elections office.
LINK: Request an absentee ballot | Track your absentee ballot
Thanks to a simplified ballot envelope and requirement that voters be notified if there is a problem with their ballot, election officials say absentee votes are less likely to be discarded this year. In June’s primary, fewer than 1% of 1.15 million ballots received were rejected, and most of those because they arrived at elections offices too late.
VOTER’S GUIDE: What races are on ballot?
Advance, in-person voting
State law requires three weeks of in-person early voting before Election Day. Voting in all Georgia counties begins Oct. 12-13 and continues Monday through Friday through Oct. 30. Advance voting will also be available at least one location in every county on Saturday, Oct. 24.
Vote on Election Day
All precincts in Georgia will be open for voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. And, unlike early voting, you can only vote at your assigned precinct. If you don’t know where is, look it up on the state’s secure My Voter Page.
What to expect if you vote in person
Like primary voting in June, people will be offered hand sanitizer as they arrive, stand 6 feet apart and, in some counties, tap a touchscreen with a stylus instead of a finger at machines that are spaced further apart than usual.
In some places, poll workers will ask voters to wait in their cars until it’s their turn to vote. Officials will wear gloves, and they’ll frequently wipe down touchscreens. Voting booths will be spread farther apart than usual.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has asked the business community to help encourage early voting, allow provide technology support workers and to secure plexiglass dividers for polling locations.
Georgia is using new, electronic voting machines this year, which combines familiar touchscreen machines with printed-out paper ballots. Voters can check their ballots before inserting them into scanners attached to ballot boxes.
Since many of Georgia’s traditional poll workers are 65 years of age and older and considered at higher risk for COVID-19 of special concern and officials have limited ability to train new poll workers due to the constraints of the pandemic, polling locations across the state may be short-staffed on election days.
Raffensperger has partnered with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Federation to recruit new poll workers to help with advance and Election Day voting.