Absentee ‘Rollover’ Voters Should Request Ballot For Special Elections

Special elections are not included in the regular election cycle, so ballots generally are not sent automatically.

John Bazemore / Associated Press file

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After a record turnout in the November general election in Georgia, many voters are making a plan to vote in runoff elections in December and January.

But those on the state’s “rollover” list already have part of the work taken care of.

Georgians who are over the age of 65, members of the military or are physically disabled have the option of receiving absentee ballots for an entire election cycle by submitting a single application.

Voters who are not on this absentee “rollover” list have to request an application to vote by mail before each election.

This creates some potential for confusion, with a number of special elections coming up on Dec. 1, followed by the Jan. 5 runoff race.

Special elections are not included in the regular election cycle, so ballots generally are not sent automatically. However, because the special election runoff for U.S. Senate is taking place at the same time as the general election runoff in January, officials have decided to include them on the same ballot.

Residents of the 5th Congressional District in Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb counties who are on the rollover list will still need to request a ballot if they plan to vote absentee. They will be choosing a candidate to fill the remainder of the term of the late John Lewis. Early voting for the race is currently underway.

Fulton County is planning to send absentee ballots to qualified voters for the state Senate District 39 race to fill the seat vacated by Nikema Williams.

Georgians who think they may qualify or want to check the status of their absentee ballot can visit the secretary of state’s website or contact their county elections department.

According to the secretary of state’s office, counties are in the process of having ballots printed for the January runoff that will include both U.S. Senate races. Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue face challenges from Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. More than 500,000 ballots will be sent to voters on the rollover list.

Some lawmakers have pushed for legislation that would give everyone the same opportunity, but it has run into opposition from those who mistrust the vote-by-mail system.

Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent introduced a bill earlier this year that would have allowed any voter to sign up for the rollover list. The bill did not receive a hearing in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“If a voter wants to vote by absentee ballot, the act of making them apply every single time for that seems to be a waste of time, energy and money — both for that voter and for the elections boards,” Parent said. “And it would make a whole lot of sense if they could sign up to be on a permanent absentee voter list.”

She argues absentee voting is secure and takes the pressure off polling locations on Election Days.

“I think there is a stronger paper trail with absentee ballots than I do with the piece of paper with the barcode that comes from the voting machines,” said Parent.