Voting rights advocates, Democrats urge voters to cast a ballot early and avoid mailing it in

sign with American flag stating "Vote Here"

by Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

November 24, 2022

Democratic-leaning groups are urging Georgians to cast their ballots in person if they can for the Dec. 6 runoff election.

“As you know, the mail is slow,” reads a recent email from the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. “If you want the Gwinnett County Elections office to send you a request for an Absentee Ballot, it might arrive in a few days or never. Once you have completed the request form, you have to return it to the elections office. If you have to mail it, it could arrive in a few days or never. (You can email it, too.)”

Common Cause Georgia had a similar message in a letter to its supporters, noting an incident in Cobb County where more than a thousand requested absentee ballots were never mailed out.

“Common Cause Georgia suggests voters plan to cast ballots in-person, after noting several issues with absentee ballots going out in time to voters during the year’s primary and general election, in addition to the anti-voter laws passed after the 2020 elections that reduced the numbers of drop boxes for ballots.”

Among other changes, Georgia’s 2021 election overhaul, Senate Bill 202, shortened the length of the runoff and reduced the amount of time voters will have to vote by mail. Absentee ballots applications will be accepted through Nov. 28.

Critics like New Georgia Project policy director Stephanie Jackson Ali say SB 202 was a reaction to young voters and voters of color turning out in 2020 and will make voting this time around more complicated.

“This shortened window along with the fact that absentee ballots are more complicated now with the wet signature, the fact that we know in 2020 there were delays – because if you’re in southwest Georgia, your mail routes through Florida, so that adds a week to it anyway, just your regular everyday mail, much less election mail,” she said. “All of these things were known facts, and SB 202 decided to add on top of that a shortened time frame, wet signature requirements for the application itself, additional ID requirements in the ballot itself, which are going to confuse people, all of that’s going to add up to where, especially our students out of state and our traveling families, are very potentially going to have their their voices silenced this cycle.”

The coming rush of holiday cards and packages could make the situation worse, Ali said.

“In some counties, we’re talking about, literally, the paper that the ballots are printed on, was being delayed because a lot of them use the same printing company. There’s just so many administrative things that were slowing it down. And then we know, we’re about to hit Black Friday, which is going to slow down the USPS. Even in the regular 45-day window of when someone can order their absentee ballot, get it from the county, send it back, we run into people all the time who just do not get it.”

More than 234,000 Georgians voted early by mail in the 2022 general election, about 9.3% of all early votes, according to the United States Election Project.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Statewide early voting is set to begin Nov. 28 and run through Dec. 2, though several counties have already begun accepting ballots. Some counties are set to provide early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26. Voters should check their county board of registrar’s office for details on times and locations.

Under state code, any voter who is 75 or older or has a disability and requires assistance to cast a ballot can skip to the front of the voting line.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.