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Georgia’s absentee ballots for the upcoming June 9 primary omit a second inner envelope – a step taken to help speed processing of what is expected to be a record mail turnout given the COVID-19 pandemic. AJC.com has more:
Absentee ballots arriving in Georgia voters’ mailboxes now come with just one return envelope instead of two.
State election officials eliminated the inner envelope, which secured ballots in another layer of packaging. The inner envelope has been replaced with a white folded piece of paper that says, “Official absentee ballot. Ballot must be enclosed.”
With just one envelope to open, county election officials will be able to process ballots more quickly, said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.
The change was made at the initiative of the mail vendor the state has retained to assist with processing a mountain of ballot requests received in response to a statewide mailing:
Record numbers of Georgia voters are expected to mail their ballots for the June 9 primary after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot request forms to the state’s 6.9 million active voters. More than 825,000 people had returned their absentee ballot requests through Sunday.
“This year, there is a return envelope, privacy sleeve and a ballot,” Fuchs said. “This is due to the requirements of the mail vendor that the state procured to take the time and expense of packaging and mailing off of our hard-working county election officials. It has the added benefit of helping to speed up the tabulation process.”
The state may also allow local election offices to get a head start on processing mail ballots:
Ballots will be counted as long as they’re received by county election officials before polls close at 7 p.m. on election day.
The secretary of state’s office is considering allowing county election officials to begin opening and scanning ballots before election day, helping them manage the heavy load of mailed ballots, Fuchs said. Absentee ballots wouldn’t be tabulated until election day.
Georgia’s move to change the contents of the absentee packet is just one of the many steps states are taking to retool the voting process in the face of the coronavirus – in particular, the need to stand up an expanded mail voting operation in a very short period of time. Like every other state facing a similar scramble, don’t be surprised if there are stumbles – but the effort to streamline processing is a good first step. Stay tuned …