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Georgia

Georgia made a handful of both good and bad changes to their mail voting system after 2020. Most of these negative changes were a result of the “big lie” about the integrity of our elections: If the state truly wanted to bolster its security, it would seek to improve its audits, not limit drop boxes. As always, we stress that policy is important, but it is just as important that it is implemented well.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Allowing drop boxes to be located in a variety of places and accessed 24/7, rather than just on government property and staffed by a worker, would increase access and decrease costs. Unmanned drop boxes have been proven to be safe, secure, effective ways to increase access to the ballot through permanent and video monitored 24/7 drop boxes. These options reduce strain on the postal system, and are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. Additionally, we highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling places, vote centers, and other locations deemed necessary by the clerk. Additionally, creating vote centers that any voter in the county can vote at and allowing voters to drop off their absentee ballots at polling places would further lessen the reliance on the postal service and increase voter convenience and confidence.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. Georgia actually already has all of the technology in place at all of their polling locations to turn them into vote centers, allowing any voter in the state to vote at them. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Georgia implemented top-tier ballot tracking in the 2020 election and should make it a permanent feature for all future elections. This system has been shown to increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package and add a layer of data for the elections office who can also track the ballots to make sure they have reached their destination. Furthermore, these tools can be used as another modality to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office is not only a voter-centric reform, but also a safety reform.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. In fact, doing so is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half. Current law allows for ballots to be requested up to four days before the election, and that is most likely too short of a timespan for all requests to be processed, ballots to be mailed, voted, and returned by mail by close of polls. Georgia should expand their existing postmark acceptance that they provide for overseas and military voters to all voters.
Georgia can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by expanding it’s permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. Expanding Georgia’s permanent absentee option to all residents and making the list truly permanent, rather than from year to year, would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests they need to process; on average, states save $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
Voters should have sufficient time to correct any issues with their ballot In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected. Georgia’s current cure deadline of three days after the election leaves many voters behind, especially since absentee ballots can be requested up to four days before the election. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones. Georgia can implement this system in conjunction with their exemplary ballot tracking system.

Recent Legislation

As of May 19, 2021

In 2020 only one piece of pro-vote-by-mail legislation was introduced in 2020, to establish a permanent absentee list, but unfortunately, it failed to become law. The only movement was Secretary of State action to send out absentee request forms to all registered voters and allowing elderly and disabled voters to only request a ballot once for all elections this year and a decision by the State Board of Elections to allow drop boxes.

In 2021, the Georgia legislature considered a wide variety of restrictive bills ranging from eliminating early voting on Sundays to requiring voters to have an “excuse” to vote by mail. Fortunately the most egregious parts of these bills were not passed, but plenty of thorny provisions fell into final law.

Georgia SB 202 requires that all absentee ballot requests include ID or or social security numbers, which is a barrier to low-income voters without ID or who don’t have (or don’t know) their SSN. This is completely unnecessary for security, as the signatures on the absentee application and on the ballot are already compared to the voter registration signature on file. Additionally, while it does make drop boxes permanent, it places new limits where drop boxes can be located and requires they be staffed at all times, an unnecessary (and costly) provision that decreases access. Further, the bill banned election officials from proactively mailing voters absentee ballot applications or absentee ballots. It’s not all bad, though: ballot preprocessing, a wholly good emergency provision from 2020, was made permanent in SB202.