AJC poll: Georgia voters back absentee ID but oppose new restrictions

Mara Braziel votes in January at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
Mara Braziel votes in January at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Most Georgians support proposals requiring photo ID or other documentation to cast an absentee ballot, a broad consensus across the political spectrum for stronger election safeguards, according to a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But the poll also showed that most voters don’t believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election, and they have little appetite for new restrictions. Both ballot drop boxes and no-excuse absentee voting enjoy substantial support.

ExploreAbsentee voting laws: Proposed Georigia legislation would end no-excuse absentee voting, automatic registration

Voting laws could change in Georgia following the contentious presidential election, when Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that the race had been stolen despite recounts and audits that verified the results. The majority-Republican General Assembly plans to consider voting bills after Democrats won Georgia’s presidential and U.S. Senate elections for the first time in years.

Nearly three-quarters of voters said they want additional verification of voters who cast absentee ballots, according to the AJC poll. About 91% of conservatives and 55% of liberals backed proposals requiring a photo ID or another type of identifying information for absentee voting.

The AJC poll involved 858 registered Georgia voters and was conducted Jan. 17-28 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 4.2 percentage points.

ExploreInteractive: Complete poll results

Michael Holland, a truck mechanic outside Chickamauga, said he doesn’t think elections in Georgia are secure, and he’s worried about the possibility of fraud. He supports a photo ID requirement for absentee voting.

“I’ve got to take off work most of the time just to vote and stand in line, so I think it’s important enough for absentee voters to take some steps, too,” Holland said.

Marcia Hendricks, who works in sales and marketing in Stone Mountain, said the use of some kind of identification with absentee ballots would protect voters. Election officials currently check absentee ballots by comparing voter signatures with their handwriting on file, and by making sure their registration information matches.

But Hendricks opposes proposals for voters to submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot. She prefers a compromise, such as asking voters to submit a driver’s license or state ID number.

“How many people have copiers in this day and age?” Hendricks said. “You’d have to go somewhere with a copier. That would create an obstacle to voting, but we’re also trying to keep it secure and safe and fair. I don’t know where the happy medium is.”

Photo ID for absentee voting has gained support from Georgia political leaders, including Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, all Republicans. Democrats oppose photo ID, saying it would create an obstacle to voting after election officials found little fraud.

The political leanings of voters determined whether they thought there was widespread fraud in Georgia’s presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won by less than 12,000 votes.

ExploreAJC poll: Republicans in dicey political territory in Georgia

Just 4% of Democrats thought there was substantial fraud, compared with 76% of Republicans, according to the poll. Overall, 38% of voters said they believed there was significant fraud in the election.

Other potential changes to absentee voting appear to have limited support.

About 55% of voters objected to restricting absentee voting to people over 65 years old or who have a valid reason for not being able to vote in person. Georgia law has allowed anyone to cast an absentee ballot since 2005.

“We need to provide ways for people to vote safely and securely from a distance. It’s not that hard. People have done this for years,” said Margaret Sapp of Oconee County, who works in education administration. “It sounds to me like they’re simply trying to restrict the number of ballots they receive.”

Ballot drop boxes, an innovation allowed in Georgia for the first time last year as 1.3 million cast absentee ballots, gained popularity but are endangered by upcoming legislation that could seek to eliminate them.

Nearly 59% of Georgians in the poll opposed eliminating drop boxes. Among conservatives, who are more wary of drop boxes than liberals, just 38% said they wanted to ban drop boxes.

Peter Quinton of Lawrenceville said drop boxes are unnecessary.

“If you request an absentee ballot because you didn’t want to vote in person, why should there be something to accommodate you driving to a drop box?” Quinton said.

Georgia legislators plan to introduce voting bills in the coming days.

Besides a proposal to require voters to submit a copy of their photo ID twice, lawmakers are considering limits on no-excuse absentee voting, drop boxes and unsolicited ballot application mailings.

AJC poll

The poll was conducted Jan.17-28 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. It questioned 858 registered voters and has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election?

  • Yes – 38%
  • No – 58%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 5%

The Georgia Legislature is considering changing the ways Georgians may vote. Do you support or oppose requiring voters to include a copy of their photo ID or other documentation in order to cast an absentee ballot by mail?

  • Support – 74%
  • Oppose – 22%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 4%

Do you support or oppose limiting absentee voting by mail to people over 65 or others who have a valid reason for not being able to vote in-person?

  • Support – 43%
  • Oppose – 55%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 2%

Do you support or oppose eliminating absentee by mail ballot drop boxes?

  • Support – 37%
  • Oppose – 59%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 4%

Do you support or oppose prohibiting the mass mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications?

  • Support – 48%
  • Oppose – 49%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 3%

Are you more concerned about limits on voting options or the potential for ineligible voters to cast ballots?

  • Limiting options – 34%
  • Ineligible voters casting ballots – 55%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 11%

Do you think it is more important to make voting easy for eligible voters or to have additional safeguards against potential voting fraud?

  • Making voting easy and accessible – 41%
  • Adding safeguards – 55%
  • Don’t know; refused to answer – 5%

On some questions, totals may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Poll information: The survey was administered by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia. The AJC-SPIA Poll was conducted Jan. 17-28, and included a total of 858 registered voters in Georgia. The calculated margin of error for the total sample is +/-4.2 points at the 95% confidence level.

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