Should I vote by mail or absentee? (Pro tip: they’re literally the same thing)
In short, YES, YES, one thousand times, YES.
First, we’re still in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and the election will be happening during cold and flu season, so voting absentee is healthier than voting early in person or on election day. And, in Georgia, you don’t need an excuse to vote absentee, so there’s nothing stopping you.
Second, it will relieve pressure on polling locations during early voting and on election day. Voting absentee saves other people from waiting in long lines on election day or — even worse — giving up and NOT voting at all.
Finally, who knows what could happen between now and election day? You could get hit by a bus, and we need your vote! But all kidding aside, the best laid plans can go awry. Cars break down. Kids get sick. Don’t risk your voting plan getting derailed. Go with a sure thing and vote absentee!
If I vote absentee, will my vote actually be counted? How can I be sure?
In pre-pandemic times, absentee ballots were not even opened until election night, which usually wasn’t a problem because far fewer absentee ballots were cast. Now, with more than a million people having voted by absentee for the June 9 primaries and even more expected for the November 3 election, things have changed. In August, the Georgia State Election Board made rule changes that will allow county election workers to begin publicly processing absentee ballots two weeks and a day before election day. This will give election officials a head start on the time-consuming process of verifying and scanning so many mailed paper ballots, which could otherwise delay election results. However, no votes will be allowed to be tabulated by election computers until after polls close on election day. So after the polls close, they literally tell the computer to tabulate all of the absentee ballots that have been entered into the system and, boom— votes counted. So that scary scenario you have in your head of your absentee ballot sitting unopened in a stack until after the election has been decided won’t happen so long as you request and submit your absentee ballot in a timely manner.
This is why we recommend requesting your absentee ballot NOW either via the new Secretary of State’s absentee ballot request website (here’s a step-by-step guide), or by downloading a Ballot Request Form, following this guide on how to fill it out, and then emailing it to your county elections office. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out and drop it into one of the collection drop boxes for immediate ballot delivery.
Finally, we’ve read the think pieces about a “red mirage” where Trump shows a lead from in-person voting on election night and tries to declare victory before all absentee ballots are processed. In weighing that possibility against the possibility that people give up on voting because of long lines, we err in favor of absentee voting.
Are absentee ballot drop boxes safe and secure?
The State Elections Board issued rules that require drop boxes to be placed on county or municipal property with 24-hour video streaming for security and that ballots must be collected from drop boxes daily by county election workers. So yes, they are safe and secure. Keep in mind that you MUST use a drop box located in the county where you are registered to vote. Find yours here.
How can I make sure my absentee ballot is counted?
Return your ballot in time for it to count! Absentee ballots received by 7:00pm on November 3 will be counted. Anything received after that time will not be counted! That's why we insist you use a drop box rather than the mail. If you do decide to mail it, get it in the mail no later than October 20 and use two stamps (but really, don’t mail it).
SIGN THE AFFIDAVIT ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ENVELOPE containing your absentee ballot affirming your identity and eligibility to vote! The most common reason for ballot rejection is that people forget to sign the envelope.
Fill out your ballot correctly and clearly!!! When you get your absentee ballot, be sure to fill it out on a flat dry surface (no nearby coffee spills or sticky-fingered kids), and carefully follow the instructions that come with it. Similar to the standardized Scantron tests you took in high school, ballot scanners will accept only certain colors of ink and ballots that are filled out properly. Ballots can't have stray marks or multiple bubbles filled in for the same office. If your instructions say to use black or blue ink, use black or blue ink. If it says fill in the oval, FILL IN THE OVAL. Don’t use check marks or an X or circle your choice. The Georgia State Election Board explained what percentages of a filled-in oval count as a vote. Fill yours in completely!
Make sure your signature matches your voter registration card! Georgia law says that the signature on your ballot will be compared to the signature on your voter registration card or to your absentee ballot request form, but signature comparison isn't an exact science. Election workers aren’t handwriting experts. They usually just eyeball the signatures on absentee ballots and compare them with official voter records. If there is an issue with absentee ballot signatures, county election officials are required to contact voters and give them time to correct the issue in order to have their vote counted before results are finalized. But why go through this? Make sure that you take the time to sign so that your signature looks like your signature. And...
Track your ballot online. Your My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website will allow you to watch the process of your vote, from showing the receipt of your ballot request until that ballot is counted. Watch carefully. Check in at every step. Or you can use Ballotrax, which will text you as soon as your ballot is received and accepted. If at any point you are worried that your ballot will not be counted, call the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Voter Protection Line at 1-888-730-5816.
Can I collect absentee ballots from other voters and deliver them all together?
Only for your household family members. Georgia law prohibits collection of ballots for people outside your household (with the exception of the physically disabled, whose ballots can be submitted by a caregiver). Don’t go collecting your friends’ and neighbors’ ballots for a bulk delivery. It is illegal to do this.
Where is my absentee ballot?
Be patient. Don’t panic. If it doesn’t arrive, once again check the My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website to see the status of your ballot request and returned ballot. If you have a problem call the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Voter Protection Line at 1-888-730-5816. And worst comes to worst you can go to the polls during early voting or on election day and fill out a sworn affidavit that you did not vote absentee.
A solid resource if you have more questions (although, how could you?) is the Georgia Secretary of State Absentee Voting Guide.