Q&A: What to know before you go vote in record-setting 2020 election

    Georgia is on pace for a historic Nov. 3 general election when a record 5 million people are expected to vote by absentee ballot or at their polling station. Photo by Paulding County Government

    A record 2.7 million Georgians already made their selections in election 2020 via absentee ballots or in person for the Nov. 3 general election.

    But with five days of early voting remaining and a busy Nov. 3 looming, millions more are expected to cast ballots for offices from president to local surveyor.

    State election officials predict 5 million Georgia voters will cast ballots in this election, many with questions about how to navigate an election in the middle of a pandemic.

    “Georgia is a leader in election access,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “Notwithstanding the pandemic, voters in the Peach State can take advantage of no-excuse absentee ballot voting by mail or through a secure drop box; three weeks of early, in-person voting; or Election Day voting.”

    Below are some answers to questions Georgians are asking about voting in this election.

    Where are my county’s absentee ballot drop boxes?

    Absentee ballot drop boxes are a new voting option for people trying to avoid contracting the coronavirus through in-person voting, or who don’t want to rely on the postal service to deliver the ballots. Voters need to deposit their ballots by 7 p.m. Election Day. Contact your county election office for drop box locations.

    If you prefer to mail in your ballot, you need to send it by tomorrow to help ensure it arrives in time to be counted. Absentee ballots can also be dropped off at the county election office by on Nov. 3. 

    How can I vote safely during a pandemic?

    Election officials across Georgia encourage social distancing while standing in lines. Voting machines are spaced apart at safe distances and  sanitized styluses are used to make selections on the touch screens of Georgia’s new ballot-marking devices.

    Public health officials also recommend wearing masks that cover your nose and mouth and getting a flu shot before you vote in-person.

    How can I find out where to vote?

    The secretary of state office’s My Voter Page allows Georgians to quickly check where they can vote-in-person during early voting and on Nov. 3. The site also lets voters view sample ballots, check their voter registration status and track their absentee ballots and more.

    Until the early voting period ends Friday, registered voters can cast ballots at any open polling location within their county. On Election Day, voters must vote at their assigned polling place.

    Anticipate longer lines late this week as election turnout usually swells in the final days of early voting. Election Day, the waits could be the longest of the 2020 election season. Raffenspger predicts 300,000 or more Georgians will cast ballots on the last day of early voting alone.

    Can I vote in-person if I’ve already requested an absentee ballot? 

    Yes, you can still opt to vote in-person instead of absentee after you receive the ballot in the mail. 

    You should bring the absentee ballot to cancel at the precinct since it takes election workers less time to verify that you haven’t already voted. 

    When can I expect election results to come in?

    It might take a few days to sort out the winners in some closely contested elections and recent polls indicate those could include two U.S. Senate seats. Georgians have cast nearly 1 million absentee ballots so far, far more than ever before.

    Election staff can process absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day, but can’t count those votes until after polls close on Nov. 3.

    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.