Record number of absentee ballot requests pour in for Georgia primary

November 5, 2019 DeKalb County: Voters cast their ballots at the Winnona Precinct at Columbia Theological Seminary’s Richard Center in Decatur on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

More Georgia voters are planning to vote by mail than ever before, with 395,000 people having requested absentee ballots so far for the June 9 primary.

The first release of statewide primary voting data Wednesday night showed high demand for voting remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot request forms to Georgia's 6.9 million active voters last month, encouraging them to avoid human contact at precincts.

About half as many people, 220,000, voted absentee in the 2018 election for governor. There were almost 203,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.

More voters have requested Republican than Democratic absentee ballots for this year’s primary.

About 223,000 people pulled Republican ballots compared to 161,000 Democratic ballots. Another 10,000 sought nonpartisan ballots.

Georgia is an open primary state, meaning voters can choose to participate in either party’s primary election.

Absentee ballots will begin to be mailed to voters starting next week.

Election officials have rejected 806 absentee ballot applications, mostly because voters didn’t pick which party’s ballot they wanted. About 40 requests had missing or mismatched signatures.

Normally about 5% of voters cast absentee-by-mail ballots in Georgia elections, a number that’s certain to rise in this spring’s primary.

In addition to absentee ballot requests for the June 9 primary, 45,000 people already cast absentee ballots and 242,000 voted early in-person for the presidential primary before it was postponed in March. Those voters are still eligible to vote in the rescheduled primary, but their ballots will exclude presidential candidates. Their previous votes for president will be counted.

Absentee ballots must be received by county election officials by the time polls close at 7 p.m. on election day. Ballots can be returned by mail, in person at county election offices, or at drop boxes that will be installed in some counties.

Voters who didn't receive or lost absentee ballot request forms can download them from the secretary of state's website.

In-person voting locations will remain open during three weeks of early voting and on election day, according to state law.

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