Deadline for absentee ballot requests advances in Georgia

FILE - Workers at the Gwinnett County Georgia elections headquarters process absentee ballots for Georgia's Senate runoff election in Lawrenceville, Ga. on Wednesday,  Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
FILE - Workers at the Gwinnett County Georgia elections headquarters process absentee ballots for Georgia's Senate runoff election in Lawrenceville, Ga. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA – Georgia House Bill 270, in its first iteration, set a deadline after which counties could no longer issue an absentee ballot. Now, under a version approved by a House committee Tuesday, the bill instead sets a deadline by which absentee ballot applications must be received by a county.

That change was enough to get some Democrats behind the Republican-sponsored legislation.

Current law allows voters in Georgia to request an absentee ballot up until the Friday before an election. The bill would move that deadline back a week, so that an absentee ballot application must be received by 5 p.m. on the second Friday before an election. A county would then have three business days to issue and mail an absentee ballot back.

Republican Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem, the bill’s chief sponsor, said that the measure is needed to give voters a realistic timeframe in which to receive, fill out and return their ballot. The bill was requested by ACCG, a group that represents Georgia’s county governments.

A different version of the bill first passed out of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity last week. That version would have made it so that counties could not issue or mail a ballot after the second Friday before an election.

Under that version of the bill, a voter could get their application in on time, but still not get an absentee ballot sent to them — an issue that some Democrats on the committee and outside groups that spoke at last week’s hearing objected to.

The bill was sent back to the committee for the change to be made after a deal was struck between Democrats and Republicans.

The bill could soon move to the full House for more debate.