Ask Mark: Answers to your questions about Georgia elections

How voting works in Georgia’s 2022 elections

Elections have consequences for all Georgians, but democracy can be complicated.

Questions often arise about Georgia’s voting law, absentee ballots and how to ensure votes count.

Voters submitted questions to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and here’s the first round of answers from Mark Niesse, who covers elections, democracy and voting rights. He focuses on how elections work — and when they fall short — in one of the most politically competitive states in the nation.

If you have a question for Mark, please fill out the form below. We’ll publish the answers in a regular feature leading up to the election.

Q: What is the soonest date to download a sample ballot? There are those of us who would like time to study the candidates and the issues.

A: Sample ballots are now available through the secretary of state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

These sample ballots are customized for each of Georgia’s 7.8 million voters, showing your neighborhood’s state legislators, member of Congress and county commissioners.

A new feature introduced this year allows voters to fill in their choices on their computer screens or cellphones, then print out completed sample ballots.

The My Voter Page also includes early voting locations, Election Day voting information and absentee voting application forms.

ExploreHow Georgia’s voting law works

Q: Me and my hubby, both seniors, usually receive absentee ballots in the mail for the general election without having to fill out another application form. Now, due to all these changes, do we have to request absentee again, or will it be automatically sent?

A: Georgia’s new voting law, passed by the General Assembly last year, didn’t change the ability for voters over 65 years old to make one request to receive absentee ballots for all elections throughout the year. Georgia also gives the same privilege to voters with physical disabilities, those serving in the military and citizens living overseas.

Eligible voters who requested an absentee ballot during this year’s primary were able to check a box on their application form so they would automatically receive absentee ballots for the rest of this year’s election cycle without having to fill out another application.

All other registered voters have to reapply for absentee ballots each election. Georgia allows any voter to request an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse.

About 70,000 voters, most of them over 65 years old, opted to automatically receive absentee ballots for the general election.

Overall, a total of 157,000 voters had requested absentee ballots as of Tuesday. Absentee ballots will begin to be mailed to voters the week of Oct. 10.

ExploreHow to vote absentee in Georgia (*printer not included)

Q: My daughter’s absentee ballot request keeps getting rejected. If she goes to school out of state, can she no longer vote in Georgia elections?

A: College students from Georgia can vote by absentee ballot no matter where they go to school, whether it’s in state or out of state.

But students must first be registered voters, and their absentee ballot request forms must be submitted to the elections office where they’re registered or through the secretary of state’s absentee ballot website at securemyabsenteeballot.sos.ga.gov.

Students who re-registered to vote where they go to school are required to request an absentee ballot from that county. Students who kept their registration at their parents’ address should submit absentee applications in that location.

So far, the most common reason for absentee application rejections is that they were submitted too early.

Under Georgia’s new voting law, the absentee ballot request window opened Aug. 22, which was 78 days before Election Day. In previous years, voters could request absentee ballots 180 days before Election Day.