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The Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office recently mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the state in an effort to encourage absentee voting during the on-going pandemic crisis and local officials say a large number of local voters are taking advantage of the opportunity.
Grady County chief registrar Malinda Butler reported Tuesday that she has entered 2,214 applications into the state’s eNet system, but that is not all of them.
“I still have plenty more to enter into the system,” Butler said.
According to the chief registrar, the applications that have been processed to date include 1,471 republican ballots, 689 democrat ballots, and 52 nonpartisan ballots.
By comparison, in the November 2018 governors election, only 550 absentee ballots were requested.
County election officials in Georgia will have the option of installing drop-off boxes for absentee ballots in the June 9 primary election under emergency rules the State Election Board adopted Wednesday, April 15.
The new option for voters to send in their ballots comes as coronavirus continues spurring concerns over the safety of voters and poll workers at precincts on Election Day.
The State Election Board approved emergency rules allowing county registrars to set up drop-off boxes for voters to submit their absentee ballots in person, rather than by mail.
Counties will have the option of installing one or two secure metal boxes at either the registrar’s office or other county property for the June 9 primary, said Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel.
Grady County Election Superintendent and Probate Judge Denise Maddox reported Tuesday that one drop box would be installed at the courthouse and she said the installation would be completed by this Friday, May 1.
The state board has also approved rules for securing the drop-off boxes, including how they are installed and overseen by certified elections officials to guard against tampering.
“Obviously, the security of the boxes is paramount,” Germany said at the recent board meeting.
The rule approved only allows drop-off boxes to be used for the June 9 primary, though Germany said the board could expand the option to more elections in the future if they want.
He also said Raffensperger’s office is looking at federal grants and other funding sources to help counties avoid having to foot the entire bill for installing the boxes.
According to chief registrar Butler, the county’s share of the cost of the drop box is only 25 percent.
Election officials were thrown a curveball with coronavirus right as they were gearing up for the first statewide test of Georgia’s 30,000 new voting machines.
Raffensperger has twice delayed the originally scheduled March 24 presidential primary and pushed back all federal, state and local primary contests to June 9 due to coronavirus.
A huge surge in absentee ballot voting is expected with concerns over coronavirus unlikely to abate in the coming months. The option for all Georgia voters to request a mail-in ballot is only being offered for the June 9 primary, so far.
According to Judge Maddox, voters have until June 5 to request an absentee ballots and ballots must be returned no later than 7 p.m. on June 9.
Local voters who are registered voters in the City of Cairo are also reminded that in order to request an absentee ballot for the special election for Cairo mayor, also to be held June 9, applications must be made to Cairo City Hall.
Voters who have completed and returned the application mailed to them by the state do not meet the requirement to receive an absentee ballot for the city’s special election. That is a separate process, even though the election will be held on the same day.
Editor’s Note: Beau Evans of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.