Georgia runoff absentee ballot request: What you need to know

The eyes of the nation have turned their attention to Georgia as both Senate races have moved into a runoff that will likely determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

The runoff will be held on Jan. 5, 2021, with early in-person voting beginning Dec. 14.

As with the past election, Georgia will once again allow residents the option to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail or vote in-person.

Absentee ballots will begin to be mailed around Nov. 18, although the certification takes place two days later and some country registrar offices may wait until after that is complete to start to send those out. Ballots should begin arriving at voters addresses about two to four business days after that.

To request an absentee ballot, Georgians should first make sure they are registered to vote. That can easily be checked at the My Georgia Voter page. Those not registered, can fill out an online application or register by mail. The deadline to register for the runoff is Dec. 7.

The application for an absentee ballot can be found on the Secretary of State's website, it can also be obtained by the county registrar’s office, or at a special online portal set up by the Secretary of State’s Office. Applications can be mailed, dropped off, emailed, or faxed back to the county registrar’s office.

Once a voter has applied for an absentee ballot, they can begin tracking it using the ballottrax online portal. The portal doesn't give the exact location of the ballot, but it will give the ballot status.

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Voters who used absentee ballots in November’s election do not have to use that option again, but for Georgians who are 65 and older, and for residents out of the country, who previously requested an absentee ballot, one will be automatically mailed to them for the runoff.

If an absentee ballot hasn’t arrived within ten business days after Nov. 20 and after a request has been submitted, Georgians should contact their local election officials and they should be able to help remedy the situation.

Once an absentee ballot has arrived, do not wait to fill it out and send it back. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office is stressing the importance of returning absentee ballots as soon as possible especially given the upcoming holidays will both shorten the number of delivery days and will add significant volume to the mail service.

If an absentee ballot is not in the mail by the Monday after Christmas Day, voters should consider using a secured county dropbox. Those locations should be listed on the county registrar’s websites or voters should call their local elections officials to find one. Absentee ballots cannot be dropped off at polling locations. Again, the status of an absentee ballot, whether it was accepted or not, can be tracked online.

A last-resort option for those who have not received an absentee ballot in time or feel they cannot get it back in time is to contact their county registrar’s office and cancel the absentee ballot, and then vote in-person.

All absentee ballots must arrive by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021, to be counted.

Voters who feel they need some outside help in navigating or remedying an absentee ballot situation should reach out to one of the election rights groups, such as Election Protection or Fair Fight for advice and guidance. 

One important thing to note when using absentee ballots, election officials say it is important for voters to use the same type of signature on the application and on the absentee ballot.