Demand for absentee ballots delays delivery to Georgia voters

Carolyn Bourdeaux, Democratic Nominee for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, holds onto a Gwinnett County absentee ballot as she speaks during a press conference outside of the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registration and Elections in Lawrenceville, Monday, November 12, 2018. Bourdeaux’s campaign filed an emergency motion Sunday night seeking to force Gwinnett County to count previously rejected absentee ballots for the 2018 Midterm elections. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Carolyn Bourdeaux, Democratic Nominee for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, holds onto a Gwinnett County absentee ballot as she speaks during a press conference outside of the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registration and Elections in Lawrenceville, Monday, November 12, 2018. Bourdeaux’s campaign filed an emergency motion Sunday night seeking to force Gwinnett County to count previously rejected absentee ballots for the 2018 Midterm elections. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Absentee ballots won’t start being delivered to Georgia voters until the week of April 20 because of a nationwide backlog, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Information on the secretary of state's My Voter Page showing that absentee ballots have been issued for the June 9 primary is incorrect.

Georgia election officials mailed absentee ballot request forms to the state's 6.9 million active voters last week in an effort to encourage people to vote from home rather than at precincts during the coronavirus outbreak. Many voters have already returned those absentee ballot requests.

Normally, absentee voting is handled by county election offices, but this year Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger contracted with companies to mail large numbers of absentee ballots and request forms. County election workers will still be responsible for counting ballots.

The delay in mailing absentee ballots occurred because of high demand for printing services from Arizona-based Runbeck Election Services, said Gabriel Sterling, implementation manager for Georgia's voting system.

The company told the state that ballots will be mailed eight days later than originally planned, Sterling said.

“We’re all dealing in a whole new world right now, and we’re working to make sure everyone can have a safe voting experience from their home,” Sterling said.

Georgia put in its order soon after Raffensperger announced March 24 he would send absentee ballot request forms to all active voters.

Runbeck, a subcontractor for Georgia’s voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, is charging between $1.88 and $2.38 for packaging and delivery of each ballot, envelope and privacy sleeve. The cost varies based on the size of different ballots across the state.

The state contracted with Runbeck because county election offices would have been overwhelmed by the demand for absentee ballots, likely resulting in errors, Sterling said.

Under state law, absentee ballots must begin to be mailed 45 days before the June 9 primary, by April 25.

Raffensperger on Thursday changed Georgia's primary date from May 19 to June 9 because of the public health danger of the coronavirus pandemic.

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