Drop boxes for absentee ballots to be added across Georgia

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

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

More absentee ballot drop boxes will be installed in Georgia before the November election with the help of government funding.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced this week that county governments can apply for grants worth up to $3,000 to offset up to 75% of the cost of drop box purchase and installation.

Drop boxes provide voters a way to return their absentee ballots without having to rely on the U.S. Postal Service, which has warned of potential delivery delays. Georgia law requires absentee ballots to be received by election officials before polls close on Nov. 3, although that deadline is being challenged in federal court.

“Georgia has successfully maintained several ways for voters to access the ballot throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Raffensperger said. “Our first round of grants resulted in the installation of 144 absentee boxes, providing a safe and secure way for Georgians to vote by absentee ballot. I encourage every county to take advantage of the grant program and install a drop box ahead of the November elections.”

There were already more than three dozen drop boxes available in metro Atlanta’s four largest counties before the June 9 primary, a number that will grow in anticipation of high turnout in the general election. Drop box locations can be found on election websites for Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

But 61 of Georgia’s 159 counties hadn’t installed any drop boxes as of last month, according to court filings. Residents in those counties could only return their absentee ballots by mail or in person at local election offices.

Drop box grant funding comes from federal coronavirus relief funds allocated for elections last spring.

Absentee ballot drop boxes must be located on government property and monitored by video cameras for security, according to a rule the State Election Board approved in April. They also must be securely fastened and built with a slot that prevents ballot tampering, damage or removal.

All registered voters are eligible to request absentee ballots, which will begin to be mailed by Sept. 20.

A new website where voters can order absentee ballots is planned to go online by the end of this month.

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