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By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
Every Georgia voter will receive an absentee ballot request form in the mail ahead of the May 19 primaries, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday.
The unprecedented step will reinforce the social distancing public health officials are recommending in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
“Times of turbulence and upheaval like the one we Georgians face require decisive action if the liberties we hold so dear are to be preserved,” Raffensperger said. “Georgia has faced challenges before and overcome them, and we can do so again.”
Raffensperger already has postponed Georgia’s presidential primary, which was to have been held Tuesday, until May 19, when it will take place in conjunction with primaries for congressional, legislative and county offices.
Only 5% of Georgia voters cast their ballots by mail during the November elections in 2018 and 2016. But with COVID-19 raging, a much higher percentage of voters likely will vote absentee this spring.
All 6.9 million Georgia voters will be able to request and vote an absentee ballot for any reason.
Raffensperger said making it easier to vote by mail will help protect the health not only of voters but of poll workers. The reluctance of poll workers, many of whom are elderly, to show up for the presidential primary was a key factor in the decision to postpone that vote until May 19.
For voters who prefer to cast their ballots in person, the secretary of state’s office is taking steps at each polling place to reduce the threat of COVID-19. Poll workers will be given the materials they need to clean voting equipment regularly.
Also, the state will be helping counties add more and younger poll workers.
Voters age 65 and older and voters with disabilities will be able to request absentee ballots for this year’s primary and general elections as well as any runoffs that might be needed through the 2020 election cycle.