Georgia Election Board Extends Rules Governing Drop Boxes, Early Ballot Processing

Absentee ballot drop boxes will be used for the Jan. 5th runoff, under emergency rules extended by the State Election Board on Monday.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

Absentee ballot drop boxes, used for the first time in 2020 in Georgia, will be in place for the January runoff as well.

The State Election Board extended the emergency rule regarding drop boxes to cover the Jan. 5 runoff. It also extended the rule permitting counties to begin processing absentee ballots two weeks prior to Election Day, and actually mandated that counties begin doing so one week before the election.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says he hopes this will help reduce the backlog of absentee ballot processing that counties face on Election Day and the days after.

“Before they leave on Friday [before Election Day] my goal would be that they’re all caught up,” said Raffensperger. “That I think is something that all voters in Georgia will very much appreciate.”

As part of the extension of the drop box rule, board member Anh Le expressed concern about the cost that some counties were quoting when copies of surveillance video was requested by members of the public.

This led to language being added that video must be made available “as quickly as possible” and that any fees cannot be “cost-prohibitive.”

Drop boxes are under 24-hour video surveillance, and counties must store that video for 30 days following certification of an election.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, more than 762,000 absentee ballots have been requested for the Jan. 5 runoffs. The majority of those are on the “rollover” list, made up of seniors, individuals with disabilities or military members who can sign up to automatically receive ballots.

A third item originally listed on Monday’s agenda, regarding the enforcement of residency requirements, was taken off the table. This item was “basically spelling out authority that registrars already have,” according to Ryan Germany, an attorney with the Secretary of State’s office, and so it would be issued as an official election bulletin instead.

Monday’s meeting was the State Election Board’s first since the highly-contentious Nov. 3 election, which included a statewide audit involving a complete hand re-tallying of all 4.9 million ballots. On Saturday, President Donald Trump’s campaign formally requested a recount, which will be conducted by scanner.

Matt Mashburn, a Republican member of the board, took several minutes to dispel some of the most frequently cited, unsubstantiated claims of election irregularities being leveled, mainly by supporters of President Trump.

“By the time this election is done, we will have the most looked-at, checked, double-checked and after the recount triple-checked, and examined election possible – than has ever been in possible in Georgia’s history – due in large part to the tools that we have for the first time ever in this election,” Mashburn said.

“It’s time to start knocking down these wild conspiracy theories with facts,” he added.

Fellow board member David Worley, a Democrat, agreed.

“There is a lot of misinformation that is being spread all across social media by people who have an interest in stirring up dissatisfaction with the election results,” Worley said. “But the fact is that Georgia conducted a free, fair election, and the results are clear to the entire world.”