Georgia board approves online absentee ballot request portal

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s state election board voted unanimously Monday to authorize the secretary of state to create an online portal for voters to request absentee ballots for the November general election.

To verify the voter’s identity, the system will check the name, date of birth and Georgia driver’s license or state identification card number provided by the applicant against the information in the state voter registration system. If that information doesn’t match, the applicant will be redirected to fill out a form that can be printed out and sent in so the voter’s signature can be verified against the signature on file, secretary of state’s office general counsel Ryan Germany explained during a state election board meeting held by teleconference.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, had previously said he wanted to create such a portal rather than mailing out absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter, which his office did for the primary elections in June. Raffensperger had cited the cost of mailing out absentee ballot applications to all active voters.

Election board member David Worley, a Democrat, voted to approve the new portal but also said he believes Raffensperger should send absentee ballot applications to every active voter as he did for the primaries.

“I think it will only become clearer as we get closer to the November election how necessary that is,” Worley said.

He cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the current outbreak in Georgia, predicting there would be “some very serious problems in November with conducting the election.”

The rule authorizing the creation of the online absentee ballot request portal was an emergency rule, meaning it took effect immediately after the vote and will remain in effect for six months, Germany said. That means that the board would have to vote again to reauthorize the online request portal to make it permanent.

The secretary of state’s office did not immediately comment Monday afternoon on when the new absentee ballot request portal would be up and running, but the earliest absentee ballots can be sent out is Sept. 15.

Another emergency rule approved by the board on Monday builds on a previous rule. The board previously voted to allow counties to begin processing but not tallying absentee ballots two Mondays, or about a week, before Election Day. The new change adopted by the board extends that by a week, so that election officials can effectively begin processing absentee ballots about two weeks before the election.

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