Absentee request deadline trips voters under new Georgia law
More than half of absentee ballot applications rejected in Georgia in advance of the Nov. 2 elections were turned down because they came in after a deadline created in Georgia’s new voting law.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports 52% of applications were rejected because voters asked for an absentee ballot within the last 11 days before the election, too late to meet the requirements of a voting law passed in March.
The deadline was created in Senate Bill 202, which also limited absentee voting by restricting drop boxes and requiring voters to prove they had a driver’s license or other state identification when applying.
The top reason Georgia election officials rejected absentee ballot applications this fall was that they were submitted too close to Election Day, missing a deadline imposed by the state’s new voting law.
Republicans in the General Assembly pushed through the new law after a record 1.3 million Georgians mailed in or dropped off ballots in the 2020 presidential election.
The newspaper reports about 26% of those who made absentee ballot requests after the deadline later cast ballots in person on Election Day.
Some voting groups supported an earlier request deadline, saying it ensures voters have enough time to return their ballots by mail before Election Day. In past elections, voters could request absentee ballots until the Friday before an election, and many mail-in ballots were never returned.
“The way it was before, you almost were setting voters up to fail,” said Amber McReynolds, the founding CEO for the National Vote at Home Institute, which advocates for voting access outside polling places. “That’s actually a best practice to cut it off so that voters are actually receiving the ballot with enough time to get it back.”
Critics of the absentee request deadline said it’s too early and hinders voters from being able to cast ballots.
State Election Board member Sara Tindall Ghazal, appointed by the Democrats Party of Georgia, said the deadline should be five to seven days before Election Day.
“Far too many voters end up being disenfranchised,” Ghazal said. “It leads to many voters getting their applications rejected and not able to access their ballot otherwise.”
Overall, election officials rejected 4% of absentee ballot requests for municipal elections on Nov. 2, according to records analyzed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There were 1,362 rejected absentee ballot applications out of 35,312 submitted.
That’s an increase from fewer than 1% of absentee ballot applications rejected in 2020’s general election.
The second-largest cause of absentee application rejections also stemmed from Georgia’s voting law. Missing or incorrect ID information accounted for 15% of denied ballot requests.
The voting law requires a driver’s license number, state ID number or a photocopy of another form of ID for absentee voting. Previously, election officials verified absentee voters by a system of signature matching and registration information verification.