Georgia elections chief asks 1M voters to return absentee ballots

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with developments in Fulton County.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday urged voters to return their absentee ballots in time for the June 9 primary, even as thousands of Fulton County voters are waiting for their ballots to arrive and the coronavirus forced some early voting locations to close.

About 1 million voters who requested absentee ballots haven’t yet turned them in, according to state election data through Sunday.

“Vote from the convenience of your own kitchen table. Take your time to do it, but get it done as soon as you can,” Raffensperger said in an interview. “Sooner better than later, because it has to be received by June 9, no later than 7 p.m., to be counted.”

So far, over 551,000 voters have returned their absentee ballots, and another 77,000 voted in person during the first week of early voting.

Meanwhile, Fulton County reported Monday that it had nearly cleared a large backlog of absentee ballot requests that had piled up in election office inboxes, including some requests made more than seven weeks ago.

The last 3,500 ballot requests will be completed Tuesday morning, said Elections Director Richard Barron.

Then Fulton voters should receive their absentee ballots in the mail several days later.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Barron said. “We thank everyone for their patience. I don’t ever want to see us get behind like this again.”

Those voters might not have much time to return their ballots by the state's election day deadline. A federal lawsuit is asking a judge to rule that ballots should be counted as long as they're postmarked by election day.

Other counties are also dealing with coronavirus-related problems, Raffensperger said.

Appling County will reopen its only early voting location Tuesday after it was closed Friday for cleaning because a voter tested positive for the coronavirus. In McDuffie County, two election workers caught the coronavirus, leaving its elections staff shorthanded.

“Particularly on Memorial Day, we think about the huge sacrifice armed forces members made, sacrificing their lives, so we would have the freedom to be a free people and be able to freely vote,” Raffenpserger said. “These are trying times, and we encourage everyone to complete the process if you requested an absentee ballot.”