Unlike Texas, new voter ID rules in Georgia didn’t cause surge in rejections

010521 LAWRENCEVILLE: An election worker check in, sorts, and signature verifies absentee ballots at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building on Tuesday night, Jan. 5, 2021, in Lawrenceville.   Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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010521 LAWRENCEVILLE: An election worker check in, sorts, and signature verifies absentee ballots at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building on Tuesday night, Jan. 5, 2021, in Lawrenceville. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Primary election will again test Georgia voting law

Since Texas introduced ID requirements for voting by mail, ballot rejections have spiked before next week’s primary election.

But preliminary data indicates a similar voter ID law in Georgia might not result in a dramatic increase in absentee ballot rejections here before the May 24 primary.

The rate of ballot rejections because of ID discrepancies in Georgia remained relatively low during November’s municipal elections, according to election records.

In Texas, some counties initially reported rejecting as many as 40% of absentee ballots before the state’s primary on Tuesday, either because voters filled in the wrong ID number or overlooked the fields for adding their ID information. Texas election officials said the rejection rate has since fallen below 5%, which is still considered a high level.

In Georgia, election officials rejected about 0.6% of all absentee ballots returned in the fall because of incorrect or missing ID information or signatures, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of state election data.

“We have focused on adding security without impacting access and, as a result, Georgians have been able to vote confidently in our state’s elections,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

ExploreGeorgia moves toward ID numbers to verify absentee voters

Georgia lawmakers last year passed Senate Bill 202, requiring voters to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or a photocopy of another form of ID when requesting and returning absentee ballots. In previous years, election workers verified absentee voters’ identities by comparing their signatures, addresses and registration information.

Rejection rates may have been lower than in Texas because Georgia election officials clearly labeled what ID information is required on absentee ballot application forms and return envelopes. In Texas, many voters left ID information blank, or they used a driver’s license number or partial Social Security number that didn’t match whichever number was on file with election officials.

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Georgia voters must provide a driver's license number, state ID number or other identifying information when returning their absentee ballots, according to the state's new voting law.

Credit: File

Georgia voters must provide a driver's license number, state ID number or other identifying information when returning their absentee ballots, according to the state's new voting law.

Credit: File

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia voters must provide a driver's license number, state ID number or other identifying information when returning their absentee ballots, according to the state's new voting law.

Credit: File

Credit: File

Georgia election officials updated voter records in 2021 to include more ID numbers from the Department of Driver Services, leaving 2% of registered voters without an ID number on file.

Still, Georgia did see an uptick in rejection rates because of ID issues, increasing from about 0.2% of ballots in the 2020 general election to 0.6% in 2021 municipal elections.

Overall rejection rates in Georgia rose not because of ID problems, but because ballots were delivered too late.

Georgia’s voting law limited the availability of drop boxes, contributing to the increase in ballots rejected for lateness because the U.S. Postal Service delivered them after election day. Rejections for late ballots jumped from 0.3% in 2020 to 1.5% in 2021.

Voters should prepare in advance if they want to cast an absentee ballot this year, said Aunna Dennis, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability organization.

Election offices will begin accepting absentee ballot requests March 7, and the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is 11 days before the May 24 election day.

“Start the process early to be as prepared as possible so you don’t have to face hurdles that may come,” Dennis said. “We don’t know just yet what the impact is going to be until we actually have the primary.”

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