Coronavirus, Politics

What Happens If I Never Received My Absentee Ballot And Other Ga. Primary Questions, Answered

Georgia law says absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross ordered that absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at county election offices by 7 p.m. three business days later be counted.
Georgia law says absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross ordered that absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at county election offices by 7 p.m. three business days later be counted.
Credit Mike Stewart / Associated Press file
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Georgia’s primary is different this year, and voters have questions.

Typically, only about 5% of ballots cast in Georgia are absentee. This year, hundreds of thousands of people will be voting by mail, many for the first time, and the state expects to see a much higher rate of absentee ballots. About 750,000 absentee ballots have already been submitted.

Visit WABE’s voter resource guide for more election news and information.>

Here are questions we’ve received recently. If you have other questions, comments or experiences you’d like to share about voting during the pandemic, please get in touch at covid19@wabe.org.

I voted early in the presidential primary, before it was rescheduled. What happens to that vote now? 

Your vote still counts. But there’s more on the ballot in this primary, so there’s more to vote on this time, even if you already voted early for the primary that was supposed to be held in March.

And you can still vote on everything else.

You have a unique voter identification number that should indicate whether you voted or not, so when you vote, whether it’s in person or absentee, the race you already voted in should not show up again on your ballot for this primary. If it does, notify a poll worker or call the county.

When I sign my mail-in ballots, exactly which previous signature does the state compare it to?

“We’re looking for similarities,” says Cobb elections director Janine Eveler. “We’re not looking for it to be exactly the same. We understand that people’s signatures change.”

She says things like “the same little swoop on the end, or the way a ‘t’ is crossed at an angle,” will be used to examine signatures.

If there are questions, voters will have the opportunity to prove who they are: They can sign an affidavit saying it was them who voted, and send a copy of their ID to their county election office, and then they will count the ballot.

The instructions for voting by mail say I should have two envelopes to put my ballot in, but I only received one envelope. What should I do?

Instead of a second envelope, there should be a folded piece of paper to put your ballot in. Use that, and put it in the envelope you do have.

I applied for an absentee ballot so I could vote by mail, but I have not yet received it. What should I do?

The Georgia Secretary of State sent absentee ballot applications to every Georgia voter in the state, something that hadn’t happened here before. More than 1.5 million people requested absentee ballots.

Elections officials say the system worked for most people, but several thousand people have waited for weeks or even months for their absentee ballots. Fulton County had a backlog, but as of last week, the county’s election director said it had caught up.

If you’re still waiting for your ballot, login and check the My Voter page on the Secretary of State’s website to see if there is a ballot issue date for your absentee ballot.

If there isn’t, call your local county elections office.

Your absentee ballot has to be returned by 7 p.m. on election night, Tuesday, June 9. But if you’re worried it may not return by mail in time, some counties have set up absentee ballot drop boxes.

Where are my county’s ballot drop boxes?

If you’re using a drop box, make sure to bring your ballot to a drop box in the county where you’re registered to vote.

Fulton County has 20 drop box locations, find them on this map.

DeKalb County has six locations:

  • 2771 Columbia Drive, Decatur, GA 30034
  • 4362 Peachtree Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319
  • 3120 Stonecrest Blvd., Stonecrest, GA 30038
  • 875 Main Street, Stone Mountain, GA 30083
  • 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Rd. NE, Dunwoody, GA 30338
  • 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032 (there are two drop boxes at this location)

Cobb County has four locations, listed on its website.

Gwinnett County has eight locations:

  • Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford
  • Dacula Park Activity Building, 2735 Old Auburn Ave., Dacula
  • George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee
  • Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville
  • Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross
  • Mountain Park Aquatic Center,1063 Rockbridge Road, Stone Mountain
  • Shorty Howell Park Activity Building, 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
  • Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, 455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200, Lawrenceville

You can’t return an absentee ballot to an in-person polling place.

If my absentee ballot didn’t arrive, can I just vote in person on Election Day?

Yes. Go to your polling site and let the poll worker know that you requested an absentee ballot. They’ll call the elections office, and then allow you to vote in person. If you did receive an absentee ballot but still want to vote in person, bring that ballot with you if you can, it will streamline the process.

What should I do if I mailed my absentee ballot back, but the Secretary of State’s website isn’t showing that it’s been received?

According to the Secretary of State’s office, they get updates from the counties, and while they usually keep up, in the days before an election the counties can fall behind.

Try calling your county election office, to double check if they have received your ballot.

According to the Secretary of State, you can submit a written request to have your absentee ballot cancelled, and then vote in person. That would be done through your county.

How do I find my polling place?

Find it on the My Voter page on the Secretary of State’s website. Locations have changed this year because of the pandemic, so it’s worth checking even if you always vote in the same place.

What are officials doing to keep voting locations safe?

Poll workers will wear face masks, and people going to the polls are strongly encouraged to wear masks or cloth face coverings.

There will be hand sanitizer available, and physical distancing will be enforced in lines. Only a few people at a time will be allowed to go into the room where people are voting.

Instead of touching the screen on the voting machines, voters can use styluses. Elections officials say those are easier to clean than the machines themselves.

Tips for staying safe when you vote from Nellie Garlow, a public health grad student at Emory University who’s leading an initiative to support public health for voters:

  • Only touch the straps of your mask when putting it on or taking it off. Make sure it covers your nose and goes below your chin and fits tightly against your face.
  • Keep your mask on from the time you leave the house until the time you get back.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use it anytime you touch any common surface at the polling place (such as door handles, voting booths, stylus).
  • If possible, keep six feet away from others while you are waiting in line to vote.
  • Vote during non-peak hours, if possible.

Is it too late to register to vote for the primary?

Yes. But it’s not too late to register for the runoff or the general election.

Do I have to pick a party to vote in the primary?

You don’t have to, but you do have to pick something. There are three ballot options: Republican, Democrat, or nonpartisan. (A nonpartisan ballot won’t have any candidates who are running in party primaries listed. Nonpartisan ballots will mostly show positions for judges.)

Why are people on the ballot who are no longer running?

The ballots get finalized weeks before Election Day. So if candidates suspend their campaigns after they qualify for the ballot, but before Election Day, their names will still be listed.

I thought there were two Senate races in Georgia this year. Why am I only seeing one of them on my primary ballot?

If you get a Democratic ballot, you’ll see people competing for Republican Senator David Perdue’s seat. The incumbent doesn’t have a Republican challenger.

The race for Senator Kelly Loeffler’s seat will be on the ballot in November in what’s called a jungle primary.

Governor Brian Kemp tapped Loeffler to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, who didn’t complete his final term. Everyone running for that seat — regardless of political party — will compete against each other later this year, and the race will likely end up going to a runoff.

Will I have to request absentee ballots again for the August runoff and the general election in November?

With some exceptions, if you want to vote absentee again, yes, you will have to request one. In Georgia, seniors, people in the military, people who have disabilities and some others can sign up for a permanent absentee voter list. But if you’re not among those groups, you have to request an absentee ballot for every election.

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