Nina Wilson drops off her absentee ballot while dozens of other voters line up to cast their votes in person on the first day of early voting at the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration on Monday, May 18, 2020, in Marietta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton

Record number of absentee ballots mailed, returned in metro Atlanta

Metro Atlanta counties issued more absentee ballots by mail for the June 9 primary than in any election before, state election data shows. At least two counties have received more absentee votes than in any past election, and they’re still not done counting.

Absentee ballot applications were mailed to 6.9 million Georgia voters in March as part of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s effort to increase mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many metro Atlanta voters took Raffensperger’s advice; 539,030 absentee ballots were mailed to voters in Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb, according to state election data.


READ | Atlantans organize free pizza, water for long lines on Election Day


County elections offices received the ballot requests and approved them to be sent out, but a state-contracted vendor based in Arizona did most of the actual mailing. Some voters across the metro area have reported applying for absentee ballots but never receiving them. An unknown number of ballot requests went missing in Fulton County in May. On Election Day, some voters said they cast a ballot in person after never receiving the absentee ballot they asked for.

Cobb County issued the most absentee ballots of the four counties, with 142,570 sent to Cobb voters. That’s more than a quarter of the county’s 545,293 registered voters. Of those mailed, 72,917 were Democratic ballots, 62,014 Republican and 7,639 non-partisan.

Fulton County recorded the second highest number of absentee ballots mailed at 140,621; that’s just over 17% of the county’s 814,089 registered voters. Democrats made up the vast majority of voters receiving absentee ballots in Fulton, which mailed 101,033 Democrat, 32,702 Republican and 6,886 non-partisan ballots.

DeKalb issued 132,189 absentee ballots, representing almost 25% of its 556,611 voters. Democrats also far outnumbered Republicans receiving ballots in DeKalb, with 109,406 Democratic ballots mailed versus 17,492 Republican and 5,291 non-partisan.

Gwinnett had the lowest number of mailed absentee ballots of the four counties at 123,650, but that represents more than 20% of the county’s 598,672 voters. Of those mailed in Gwinnett, 64,920 were Democratic ballots, 51,798 Republican and 6,932 non-partisan.

How many of those ballots were returned and counted is still an open question, as Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb counties were still counting absentee ballots as of Thursday afternoon.

Across the state, people voted by mail in record numbers. At least 1,125,361 absentee ballots have been returned so far in this year’s primary, far exceeding the previous high of 219,731 in the 2018 general election, according to voting data from the secretary of state’s office.

While counties continue to count absentee ballots, Gwinnett and Cobb already know they’ve received more than in any election previously. Gwinnett voters had returned more than 77,000 absentee ballots, according to state data through Wednesday. That’s nearly double the absentee record set in November 2018, when 40,588 mail-in absentee ballots were received by the county, according to spokesman Joe Sorenson. Cobb had 101,559, exceeding previous records “by many times,” spokesman Ross Cavitt said. Fulton and DeKalb counties did not verify whether this year’s absentee ballots set a record.

Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this story.

Metro Atlanta Absentee Ballots
A record number of people voted by mail this year
SOURCE: Georgia Secretary of State's Office

The county's chairman has announced the formation of a special election task force.

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