Georgia voters will be able to request mail-in ballots this week ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election.
This year will see the first major statewide election since 2020, which was the best-attended election in the state’s history. And while there’s no presidential contest on the ballot this year, there are more than a few head-turning races.
Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams will get their gubernatorial rematch, and Georgia could once again be the state deciding U.S. Senate control when Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock square off.
Do you know the candidates:Who is running for Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General in Georgia?
Area codes in Georgia:See voting results in Athens, Clarke County
More:Warnock, Kemp highlight voting issues in early 2022 for Georgia re-election
This year’s elections bring some changes thanks to Georgia’s Electoral Reform Law 2021, SB 202.
Under the new law, Georgia voters now have a 59-day window to request and return an absentee ballot, rather than the previous 176-day window.
In addition, the signature comparison for postal votes is a thing of the past. Now voters must present their driver’s license or a state-issued ID number, or a photocopy of another valid form of identification, to request and submit an absentee ballot.
How to request a postal vote
To request a postal vote, voters fill out an application form.
The election application can be downloaded from the Secretary of State’s website at sos.ga.gov. Once completed, voters have a few options for sending it to their county registry office: email, mail, fax, or in person.
For residents of Athens-Clarke County, the Elections Committee address is PO Box 1828, Athens, GA, 30603, but applications may also be faxed to 706-613-3840 or emailed to email@example.com.
In Oconee County, an application for a ballot may be sent to PO Box 958 Watkinsville, GA 30677, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxed to (706) 310-3486.
In addition, the Office of the Secretary of State offers a complete online inquiry form.
Request online:Georgia’s Online Postal Vote Application Portal
The online portal can be reached at ballorequest.sos.ga.gov. To apply for a ballot, voters need a Georgian driver’s license or a state-issued ID card.
The website asks voters to enter their name, date of birth and ID card number. This information is compared with the voter documents in the file.
Return of the completed postal ballot
Upon request, the counties will send out the ballot papers four weeks before the election. Prior to the passage of SB 202, this window was seven weeks.
Voters in Athens can place their ballot in a mailbox at the Elections & Voter Registration Office at 155 East Washington St.
In Oconee County, ballots may be returned to the Electoral Board at 10 Court Street, Watkinsville, where a mailbox is available during early voting hours.
If a voter wishes to use the mailbox but cannot return the ballot in person, only a roommate, immediate family member, or caregiver can return the ballot for them.
If a voter decides they would rather vote in person than cast their absentee vote that has not yet been returned, they must take the absentee ballot to the polling stations and have it spoiled by an election official before casting an in-person vote.
Voters can check the status of absentee ballots at mvp.sos.ga.gov. If a voter has mailed a completed ballot but it has not yet been accepted, voters may appear in person to void the ballot and vote in person on Election Day.
The deadline for filling out an election application has also been postponed. Previously it was the Friday before Election Day, which was not feasible given the time it would take to get the ballot in the mail. It’s now two Fridays before Election Day.
Can I still use postal voting boxes?
Postal ballot boxes can no longer be used on election day.
The drop boxes were officially codified by Electoral Law SB 202 of 2021, but it also limited their use to the early voting period beginning October 17 and ending November 4.
The mailboxes were originally an emergency measure introduced in 2020 for those who didn’t want to risk exposing themselves to COVID by voting in person or risk having their ballot arrive late in the mail.
Previously, the boxes had to be on state property and monitored by cameras around the clock. They never closed and voters could cast ballots at any time.