ACLU of Georgia Recommendation Includes Extending the Deadline for Mail-In Absentee Ballots
ATLANTA – In light of the current threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACLU of Georgia has sent a letter to the Secretary of State proposing recommendations to protect all mail-in absentee ballot voters.
“We are encouraged by the Secretary of State’s decision to send out mail-in absentee ballot applications,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “And to make sure this is effective, the State should provide prepaid postage for any and all mail relating to mail-in absentee ballot applications and ballots, conduct a major public education campaign to inform voters of the absentee ballot option, and extend the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots to be postmarked on the date of the election.”
The ACLU of Georgia recommendations include the following:
1. Send ALL Registered Voters Mail-In Absentee Applications
Send absentee ballot applications to all registered "active" and "inactive" voters on a rolling basis since so-called “active” and “inactive” voters are both allowed to vote. This should also include sending mail-in absentee ballot applications immediately after the voter registration deadline to ensure all registered voters receive an application.
2. Provide Prepaid Postage, Self-Sealing Envelopes
Include prepaid postage and self-sealing envelopes for any and all mail return for absentee ballot applications as well as the ballots themselves. Requiring voters to pay for postage for mail-in absentee ballot applications and/or ballots could amount to a poll tax. Self-sealing envelopes further protects the public from the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Immediately Print Enough Mail-In Absentee Ballot Applications and Accompanying Envelopes
Print enough mail-in absentee ballots and accompanying envelopes to account for the potential need to mail absentee ballots to every registered voter. This should be done immediately as COVID-19 could unexpectedly impact printing vendor capacity.
4. Mount a Public Education Campaign to Inform Voters of Their Options in Casting Their Ballots
To be clear and transparent about changes to voting options, the Office of the Secretary of State should mount a public education campaign to inform all voters of their options in casting their ballots. This public education campaign must be advertised in multiple languages and easily accessible to voters with disabilities.
Any public education campaign should also include instructional aids, e.g., “how-to” infographics and videos, to demonstrate the correct way to complete an absentee ballot application and the ballot itself. This will protect absentee voters from having their ballots rejected for inadvertent technical errors.
5. Extend the Deadline for Mail-In Absentee Ballots to Be Counted
Right now, mail-in absentee ballots must arrive on or before election day in order to be counted. That makes it impossible for some voters to send their ballots in on time when mail-in absentee ballots arrive too late for them to send it in so that the ballot arrives on Election Day.
The Secretary of State should recommend to the Georgia legislature that it pass an emergency bill to move the deadline so that mail-in absentee ballots need only be postmarked by election day and arrived within three days of the election in order to be counted.