Georgia’s new election law is getting its first test with the Nov. 2 municipal elections.
For anyone who has requested an absentee ballot, the process has already begun.
The earliest residents could request a mail-in ballot was Aug.16. Previously, Georgians could request an absentee ballot 180 days before an election.
Under the new law, to request and return an absentee ballot, voters are required to submit either a driver’s license number, a state ID number or a photocopy of an acceptable form of voter ID. That method of verification replaces the signature match system.
An absentee ballot application can be returned by mail, email or fax to the Hall County elections office, or by dropping it off at the elections office in the Hall County Government Center at 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.
All that must be done by Oct. 22, including mail with that day’s postmark. Under previous law, the last day was the Friday before election day, so the application process for this election ends a week earlier.
“It’s important to request and return your absentee ballot early,” according to a State of Georgia website. “This will give your ballot enough time to travel through the mail and resolve any issues that may arise when voting by absentee ballot.”
“All absentee ballots must arrive at (the) county election office by election day,” according to the state. “You can also drop your absentee ballot off at a drop-off location in your county.”
In Hall, a drop box will be inside the Government Center, on the first floor, and accessible from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and only during early voting, which begins Tuesday, Oct. 12.
Drop boxes were not used in elections in the state prior to the pandemic.
It’s also key to know that no-excuse absentee balloting is still allowed. A provision to eliminate it was nixed from the final bill following opposition from state Democrats and Republicans in swing districts.
Also, state law adds a second Saturday to early, in-person voting, with locations designated by each municipality. Saturday voting is set for Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. In-person voting ends Oct. 29.
Sunday voting was made optional by the new law, but that “is not planned for,” said Tom Smiley, chairman of the Hall County Board of Elections & Registration. “The biggest issue there is poll workers. A lot do not like to work weekends and certainly not Sunday. We have a hard enough time manning the mandatory Saturdays.”
One other change that affects election officials, not voters, is that “during early voting, our county has to publicly report daily how many people have voted, how many absentee ballots have been issued and returned and accepted and rejected,” Smiley said.