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Vote absentee in the May 24 Georgia elections under new state law

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The rules have changed, and the deadline is fast approaching for Georgians to vote by mail in the May 24 general primary and nonpartisan election.

May 13 is a key date. It’s the deadline for a registered voter to submit a request for an absentee ballot under the state’s new process. It’s also the last day county elections offices can mail out the ballots. All completed ballots must be received by the end of Election Day.

The stakes for that day, May 24, are huge, especially for Georgia Republicans. Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger each face primary challenges, Kemp from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Raffensperger from sitting Congressman Jody Hice.

Passed by the Georgia General Assembly last year, Senate Bill 202 made striking changes to the process of acquiring an absentee ballot application and returning the completed paper ballot to a county elections office.

Unless they manually pick up the request form, voters will need access to a printer. The application requires a handwritten signature with a pen.

Voters can request an application at the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page, and many counties have the applications on their websites.

The application requires voters write their driver’s license or ID number on the application, in addition to their name, address and birth date. Key to remember for the primary is that voters must choose a Democratic, Republican or nonpartisan ballot.

Voters without a state ID can either write the last four digits of their social security number on the form, or if they lack the number, make a photograph or photocopy of one of several accepted forms of ID: a passport, any state, local or federal government ID card, a current utility bill, government check or bank statement.

No one can help a voter apply for a ballot except a close relative or someone assisting a disabled person. The name of the person assisting must be written on the form.

Once they print and sign the application, a voter can return it by hand, by mail or scan it in and submit it by email. They can also use a fax machine. Contact information for each county office is online.

A key to remember is that voters must reapply for each election unless they are 65 or older or disabled, Those 65 or older or disabled still must file a request at the beginning of each election cycle stating they want ballots for the rest of the year.

There is little mass-mailing of ballot applications as there was in 2020, when Georgia voters favored Democrats Joe Biden, Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff. Democrats out-polled Republicans in voting by mail nearly two to one in the general election and the January 2021 runoffs for two U.S. Senate seats. The elections gave Democrats control of the Senate.

The state had mailed 6.9 million absentee ballot applications to all voters ahead of the primary and nonpartisan election. The practice is now prohibited by state law.

There isn’t a ban on mass-mailing applications, but those who do must clearly identify themselves on the application. If voters miss the May 13 window, they have other chances to vote early, during in-person advance voting that starts May 2 and includes two Saturdays and potentially one Sunday, depending on the county office.

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