With election day less than a month away, early voting locations opened throughout Georgia early Tuesday morning. For many, this election marks the first time they will cast a ballot since the General Assembly passed Georgia's new voting law in March.
Under the law, which drew heavy criticism from voting integrity activists who feared it would criminalize normal election observation activities and make it more difficult for people of color to vote, early voting will be affected in several ways.
Where and when can I cast an in-person early vote?
The new law, known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, mandates that early voting locations remain open from at least 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as two mandatory Saturday voting days, and allows counties to offer up to 12 hours of early voting every day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., if they so desire. It also allows early voting to be offered Sundays at the discretion of local election officials, though it does not require Sunday voting. Before the change, only one day of Saturday voting was required.
Early voting is open from Oct. 12 to Oct. 29, and available early voting locations statewide can be found by visiting Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP or by contacting your county registrar.
How do I take part in absentee voting?
Absentee ballots will be mailed this week to voters who have already requested them. The deadline to put in an application for an absentee ballot in Georgia is Oct. 22. These applications may be submitted online, by email, by mail, by fax or in person. Once the local county elections office reviews and approves the application, a ballot will be sent by mail to the voter who requested it.
While much of this process is comparable to what has been done in previous years, the new law adds a new requirement for those voting absentee. Unlike in previous years when the identification of those voters was verified by comparing their signatures to those on file at the state level, usually from when they first registered to vote, the new law requires them to submit photo identification, a driver's license number, state identification number or other identifying documentation when requesting or dropping off absentee ballots. Voters who lack this kind of identification will need to submit another form of documentation, such as a utility bill, bank statement or passport, and should contact their local election officials for more information.
Returning absentee ballots may also look a little different this election as compared to last.
Though every county is still required to make at least one ballot drop box available, changes to the law limit the use of drop boxes to early voting hours and require they be kept inside early voting locations so election officials can monitor them throughout the day. Another change is the number of available drop boxes in each county is limited to one for every 100,000 active voters or the number of early voting locations in the county.
For voters within the country, all absentee ballots must arrive at their county election office before polls close on Election Day. Current military or overseas voters should post their absentee ballot by Election Day at the latest, and make sure it arrives within three days to ensure it counts.
How do I vote on Election Day?
Election Day is Nov. 2, and voting hours will be held during the normal 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. timeframe.
To vote, Georgia residents will be required to show valid photo identification. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver's license or U.S. passport. A voter identification card, which can be issued by any county registrar, can also be used to cast a ballot in-person.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.