— By Will Peebles, Athens Banner-Herald, October 1, 2020 —
COVID-19 has pushed substantially more Georgia voters towards voting absentee this year than four years ago.
At the end of the day on Tuesday, 1,352,070 Georgians had requested an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 general election. In 2016, only 241,519 absentee ballots were issued.
Of the ballots requested this year, 102,900 had been completed and returned by close of business Tuesday.
Like many facets of life after COVID, it was uncharted territory for Georgia. Following the twice-delayed June 9 primary, which garnered an overwhelming round of absentee ballot requests, the Secretary of State’s office has taken steps to make the absentee process more accessible and transparent, Communications Manager for Voter Education Walter Jones said.
Jones points towards Georgia’s new online absentee ballot request portal, which allows voters to get an absentee ballot by filling out a short form online.
“It takes about 30 seconds to do, and it helps the voter because it’s so simple. You don’t have to download the form, sign it and mail it in,” Jones said. “It also streamlines things for the counties, because the voter is entering the data directly into the voter registration system.”
Once those ballots are requested, voters can use the state’s new BallotTrax system, which sends text alerts when their absentee ballots are issued, received and accepted.
Since its launch around the end of August, the online portal has been used by 262,712 Georgia voters — more than the total absentee ballots issued in the 2016 general election.
Additionally, the ballots can now be processed by county elections boards as soon as Oct. 19 — a move meant to allow these boards to more quickly count the ballots on election night. Before now, processing began at 7 a.m. on election day.
“While we understand the Georgia tradition of in-person voting and look forward to returning to normal in-person voting in future elections, the extra precautions necessary to preserve voter and poll worker health during the pandemic will result in long wait times and an increased health risk that could be avoided through absentee ballots for this election.” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.
Read the entire news story: https://www.onlineathens.com/news/20201001/georgia-absentee-ballot-requests-so-far-5-times-more-than-2016-totals