More than 1 million absentee ballots requested from Georgia’s online voter portal
By Raisa Habersham
To prevent a repeat of the long delays during the primary elections while slowing the spread of COVID-19, the state rolled out an online absentee ballot system intended to streamline the process to request a ballot and hopefully encourage residents to mail in their votes.
The new absentee ballot request system debuted late last month. During the first week and a half, more than 10,000 requests were coming in daily. Now that number now hovers at about 5,000, Gabriel Sterling, statewide voting system implementation manager, wrote.
More than 1 million voters will be getting their ballots this week, Sterling said, adding that he anticipates more than 2 million absentee ballots will be cast by Election Day.
Ballots requested for the Nov. 3 election will be mailed no later than Friday, he said. Voters can then track when their ballot has been accepted by their respective county on the My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov. “We are recommending voters check early and often so they have time to contact their county in case of a problem,” Sterling said in an email to the Atlanta Civic Circle.
The My Voter Page could also help address concerns residents raised about not receiving absentee ballots, leading them to head to the polls instead. The U.S. Postal Service, another point of controversy in an unprecedented election season, is encouraging voters to mail in their ballots early.
“Which is a good reason for voters to make their [absentee ballot] requests early and plan to return their ballots to their county as soon as possible either by mail, at their county registrar’s office or by drop box,” Sterling wrote.
Cybersecurity threats also pose concerns ahead of the election season. To prevent hacking, Sterling said the online system “withstood rigorous, extensive testing, including examination by cybersecurity experts we are partnering with.” One of their partners includes the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing Analysis Center, or EI-ISAC, which provides resources on election security.
Georgia isn’t alone in its digital transition. Other states, including New York, West Virginia, and Kentucky – the latter two are very similar to Georgia’s online portal – have also rolled out in recent weeks to help prevent long wait times and the potential spread of COVID-19.
Georgia’s new online system would prove helpful to Fulton County, where residents waited hours on end to cast ballots in the June 9 primary. As of Sept. 10, the county had received 145,000 absentee ballot applications. Fulton County elections director Richard Barron anticipates the county will receive 300,000 absentee ballot applications for the Nov. 3 election.
Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts’ goal is to have 40 percent of residents submit absentee ballots, another 40 percent early vote, and the remaining 20 percent cast ballots in person to avoid the long lines. Fulton County residents can also submit their ballots at designated drop boxes that will be monitored by surveillance around the clock.
“It’s not realistic to think that 100 percent of absentee ballots that we put in the mail on Friday will get to us by Tuesday,” he said at an education town hall last week. “So, these drop boxes are important for us.”