GEORGIA: SECURE VOTE BY MAIL ELECTIONS IN 2020
VOTING IN GEORGIA
Georgia has nearly 7 million registered voters in its 159 counties, ranging from 1,250 in Taliaferro County to 770,000 in Fulton County. In the 2018 election, less than 6 percent of Georgians voted absentee, though nearly 50 percent voted early in person. Of that election’s 16,911 poll workers, 58 percent were age 60 or older—an age group at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rescheduled the presidential primary for June 9 (nearly three months after its originally planned date) and mailed absentee application forms to all active voters. As of June 8, nearly 1 million voters had mailed in their ballots. That represented a more than 20-fold increase in usual Vote By Mail rates, but it wasn’t enough to prevent hours-long waits in lines at many polling places on Election Day.
How GEORGIA is already prepared for Vote By Mail
- Has an official notice and cure process (up until Election Day).
- Allows any voter to request an absentee ballot.
- Is a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).
- Uses voters’ signatures to verify ballots.
- Allows county clerks to start processing ballots upon receipt.
- Allows voters to register online.
- Allows early in-person voting starting four weeks before Election Day.
- Automatically registers voters and updates their address.
STEPS FOR SAFE, secure elections IN 2020—AND BEYOND
This resource describes tried and tested reforms, along with sample language from other states that have already taken these steps. Within each section, recommendations are arranged roughly in order of importance for safe and secure elections and ease of implementation.
For Local Election Officials
- Coordinate with USPS.
- Design ballots and envelopes that are easy to use.
- Implement robust signature verification.
- Provide secure drop boxes.
- Provide election day voting centers for in-person voting.
- Consider using a professional printer and sorter.
- Count ballots at a centralized, secure facility.
- Include a postage prepaid return envelope.
- Invest in high-speed centralized equipment.
FOR SECRETARIES OF STATE
- Use a comprehensive system to track ballots.
- Mail absentee application forms to every registered voter..
- Account for voters with non-traditional addresses.
- Give voters a “single sign-up” option to permanently receive mailed-out ballots.
- Allow counties to accept ballots postmarked on election day.
- Allow voters to request an absentee ballot online.
- Allow voters to request a replacement ballot online.
- Allow community organizations to help collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots.
- Automatically register voters and update their addresses.
Georgia's Grade for Vote By Mail preparedness = B
We evaluated each state on 16 factors, covering access, administration efficiency, security, and infrastructure. Read more.
Editorial photo credit: Henry C Jorgenson / Shutterstock.com. Best practices for Vote By Mail in Georgia.
HOW TO HOLD SAFE AND SECURE ELECTIONS IN 2020---AND BEYOND
STATE-BY-STATE RESOURCES FOR ELECTIONS OFFICIALS
CLICK THE MAP FOR STATE-SPECIFIC RESOURCES
THE CHALLENGE: PREPARING FOR SAFE ELECTIONS IN THE ERA OF COVID-19
Local elections officials are on the frontlines of the nation’s coronavirus response. In 2018, just one in four voters nation-wide cast a ballot by mail, but that share is expected to spike as high as 70 percent in 2020. City, county, and state elections administrators have just months to prepare, ensuring voter and poll worker safety and election security.
ABOUT THIS RESOURCE: STATE GUIDELINES FOR ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATORS
These state-by-state guides are designed to give local election officials the information they need to identify and take the most important steps to get ready for November. Each set of state-specific resources includes best practices and established models from around the country, including practical nuts and bolts advice for clerks, materials from election administrators with experience conducting all mail elections, and information about vendors and costs.
- IS YOUR STATE READY FOR A COVID-19 ELECTION?
- FAQ: PANDEMIC-PROOF ELECTIONS WITH VOTE BY MAIL
- CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF ALL 50 STATE RESOURCE PAGES
- HOW WE GRADED EACH STATE
Sightline Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank with a 25 year history. We are based in the Pacific Northwest, where many states already conduct elections completely by mail. Our experience working on local and state-based democracy reforms, as well as our relationships with experienced clerks, spurred us to put together this information to help give other clerks a running start at conducting safe elections with more mailed-out ballots on a short timeline.
Photos: TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock. Wisconsin primary election proceeds despite Coronavirus Covid-19 in April, 2020. A shortage of poll workers and social distancing precautions left Milwaukee with only a few polls open resulting in long lines. King County, Washington, Vote By Mail ballot collection box. Amid coronavirus threat, American voters prefer safe Vote By Mail elections in 2020.