Everything you need to know about voting in Georgia

Fulton County poll clerk Barbara Strickland gives Chris Bailey of Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood his electronic voting card before he participates in September's special election in the 5th Congressional District at the polling site located at Fanplex in Atlanta's Summerhill community.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Fulton County poll clerk Barbara Strickland gives Chris Bailey of Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood his electronic voting card before he participates in September's special election in the 5th Congressional District at the polling site located at Fanplex in Atlanta's Summerhill community. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

About 6 million Georgia voters are expected to participate in this year’s general election, a record turnout despite the coronavirus pandemic.

After long lines plagued Georgia’s June primary in some areas, voters and election officials are determined to avoid a repeat.

Election Day polling places will be open across the state Tuesday, equipped with health and safety precautions.

ExploreAJC Voter Guide

Election Day voting

Georgians can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Before you go to the polls, check your voting location on the state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. In some counties, traditional polling places that were closed during the primary in response to the coronavirus have since reopened. In other cases, some voters have been reassigned to new locations. For example, Fulton County has added 91 locations since June.

Voters will be spaced 6 feet apart as a precaution against COVID-19. Only a few voters at a time will be allowed inside polling places to cast their ballots.

Poll workers will wipe down touchscreens to prevent the spread of germs, and styluses will be provided so voters don’t have to use their fingers to make their choices. Hand sanitizer will also be available.

In addition, Home Depot donated plexiglass countertop shields for use at the state’s over 2,600 polling places.

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Voting machines

In-person voters will cast their ballots on Georgia’s new voting equipment, which combines touchscreens and paper ballots.

Voters will pick their candidates on touchscreens, which are connected to printers that create paper ballots. Then they can review their choices and insert their ballots into optical scanners. The ballot must go through the scanner to be counted.

The secretary of state’s office purchased $104 million worth of voting equipment from Dominion Voting Systems, introducing a paper ballot to in-person voters for the first time in 18 years.

The voting system was first used statewide in Georgia’s primary election, when some poll workers at times struggled to operate voter check-in computers and touchscreens.

During the general election, technicians will be stationed in every precinct, and poll workers have been retrained to avoid problems with activating voter access cards and maintaining power on touchscreens.

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Absentee voting

Voters who requested an absentee ballot but haven’t returned it yet can still turn it in at a drop box.

Drop boxes are monitored by video, and county election workers collect ballots at least once a day. No postage is required to deliver ballots in drop boxes, available in about 130 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

Besides drop boxes, voters can also return absentee ballots at their county’s voter registration office.

At this stage, voters shouldn’t return absentee ballots through the mail. Ballots sent through the mail won’t arrive before Georgia’s receipt deadline at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. Ballots received by county election officials too late will be rejected.

Use a black or blue pen to complete your absentee ballots, fully filling in ovals. Red ink or felt tip pens should not be used.

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Switching from absentee to in-person voting

Voters who requested absentee ballots but decide to instead vote in person are allowed to do so in Georgia.

However, the process of switching from an absentee ballot to an in-person ballot will take a few minutes at the polling place.

Voters must sign a document to cancel their absentee ballot, and poll workers often have to call the county elections office to confirm that the absentee ballot hasn’t already been returned.

The process takes less time if voters bring their absentee ballots with them to be canceled at the polling place.

Election Day expectations

Lines are probably unavoidable at some polling places because of such high turnout. Even if two-thirds of voters cast their ballots in advance of Election Day — either absentee or during early voting — that still could leave as many as 2 million people voting on Nov. 3.

But some of the problems from the primary are unlikely to happen again.

Increased poll worker training and tech support will minimize difficulties operating voting computers. Thousands of new poll workers have been hired. Additional voting locations have opened.

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However, it might take some time for results to come in.

With so many absentee ballots, county election officials could be counting them after Nov. 3. That also happened in prior years, but there were rarely enough absentees to swing election outcomes.

State law gives county election officials 10 days to certify vote counts, and then Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger finalizes results a week afterward, on Nov. 20.

Voters can review their registration information, download sample ballots, check their absentee ballot status and find voting locations on the My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

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