Georgia elections chief wants to end no-excuse absentee voting

On the heels of three elections that have seen a massive influx in voting by absentee ballot, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says he is open to ending the state’s no-excuse absentee voting in favor of going back to requiring absentee voters to provide a reason for not voting in person.

For the upcoming General Assembly, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and County Election Officials are calling for reform of the no-excuse absentee ballot request rule. Raffensperger says the rule change would allow Georgia’s elections officials to effectively run elections in Georgia. Georgia currently requires strained county elections officials to hold three weeks of early, in-person voting, election day voting, and no-excuse absentee ballot voting, which strains county resources and budgets.

The move to end no-excuse balloting comes after Georgia’s election process — which Raffensperger has staunchly defended — has come under fire by President Donald Trump and Georgia’s two senators who are currently in a heated runoff election.

“In light of the past few months and the overwhelming amount of paper absentee ballots that have been requested, processed and counted, the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials would support legislation that would require all applicants to provide a reason to receive an absentee ballot by mail,” said Deidre Holden, Paulding County Elections and Registration supervisor. “It would also help with the expense on a county budget due to the extreme cost incurred in the processing of a ballot from beginning to end.”

No-excuse absentee ballot voting was passed by the Georgia legislature in 2005 and signed into law by then-Governor Sonny Perdue. For years, the provision was used by between 5% and 7% of Georgia voters, with maximum absentee ballot turnout lower than 300,000 total ballots cast, according to the secretary of state’s office.

As COVID-19 hit Georgia and the country, county elections officials experienced what the secretary of state’s office called an “overwhelming surge” in absentee ballot voting. Voters who were able to vote in person but requested absentee ballots anyway showed up at the polls to vote in person but still had to cancel their requested ballots. This further slowed down voting lines, Raffensperger’s office said.

“Reforming Georgia’s absentee ballot request process to only those have a specific need would take a large burden off of the overwhelmed elections officials here in Lowndes County and across the state,” said Lowndes County Elections Director Deb Cox.

Raffensperger’s office claims that before COVID-19 hit, many of those who took advantage of no-excuse absentee ballot voting had a reason to cast a ballot absentee by mail. As COVID-19 hit, the secretary of state’s office says individuals who were able to cast ballots in person nonetheless opted to cast a ballot by mail instead.

More details on this story to come.

Correction: Deidre Holden’s title has been updated to reflect her correct affiliation to Paulding County.