New online portal opens to help Georgians request absentee ballot

    A new online portal from the Secretary of State's office allows Georgia voters to request absentee ballots for the November presidential election. Elections officials expect to break the record 1.1 million residents who voted absentee in the June primary. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

    A new online portal for Georgians to request absentee ballots is up and running so voters can avoid the usual paperwork in this November’s presidential election. 

    Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger launched today, a site he said will provide voters easy access to absentee ballots while also streamlining the processing of them for local elections officials. 

    State officials expect more Georgians will cast their votes through the no-excuse absentee ballots in November than the record 1.1 million who did so in the June 9 primary when Raffensperger sent out 6.9 million applications as worries about going to the polls increased while COVID-19 spread.

    Through the portal, voters can request ballots by providing their name, date of birth, driver’s license or state identification number, and their county. That information will go to the county elections office to review and approve qualified ballots.

    The portal should cut down on some of the voter turnout on a busy presidential Election Day and eliminate some of the problems some counties encountered while processing many applications for June’s primary, voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling said.

    A State Election Board investigation found the Fulton County elections office failed to deliver absentee ballots to many voters in time to avoid hours-long, socially distanced lines that stretched out of some polling sites in June. 

    “We anticipate that being a very successful project to help counties do their work,” Sterling said during Thursday’s Fulton County hearing. “It also provides more transparency to the voter because as soon as they submit that an email will be sent to them saying on this date, we received your absentee ballot application. And here’s some information about how you can track it on the Georgia My Voter Page.”

    Some Democrats and a coalition of progressive organizations have pressed for the state’s chief election official to send ballot applications to registered voters again, citing concerns that coronavirus infections might spike heading into November voting.

    While Raffensperger pumped the brakes on repeating the unsolicited mass mailing of applications for November’s election, he encouraged more county election administrators to apply for $3,000 grants for absentee ballot drop boxes.

    His office is also working with voting rights groups and other civic organizations in recruiting thousands of poll workers after shortages in June’s primary. 

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.