CLAYTON— Voters are beginning to receive their absentee ballots from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, but the contents used to secure the ballot before mailing it in will look a little different for the June 9 election.
Instructions for filling out and mailing the absentee ballot explain to put the completed ballot into the provided “envelope” labeled “Official Absentee Ballot: Ballot Must Be Enclosed.”
However, voters will instead find a folded white piece of paper labeled “Official Absentee Ballot: Ballot Must Be Enclosed” to use for ballot submission. This is referred to as a “security sleeve.”
This change is due to a misunderstanding with the company that provides the ballots.
“The Secretary of State contracted with a vendor to mail out ballots,” said Tammy Whitmire, Rabun County elections supervisor. This company mails out ballots in several states.
Because of this misunderstanding, every ballot will be counted regardless of whether the absentee ballot is received in the security sleeve or not, according to Whitmire.
“Whether they put it in the piece of paper or not, it’s fine,” Whitmire clarified.
She said that some other states use this “security sleeve” to place the ballot before mailing it in, but the state of Georgia uses an actual envelope to secure the ballot.
The vending company was not aware of this fact before mailing out absentee ballots.
“It’s just a privacy envelope so people can’t see your ballot through the outside envelope, said Elaine Lawson, Rabun County absentee ballot clerk, about the purpose for the envelope and security sleeve.
She noted that the ballot cannot be seen through the outside of the mailing envelope even if it’s not enclosed in a privacy sleeve, so voters should not have privacy concerns.
Absentee ballots can be requested until Friday, June 5 but the completed ballot has to be received at the Board of Elections Office by the June 9 election day.
Lawson urged voters to submit their application and completed ballot as soon as possible due to a longer processing time because of the volume received.
She said that the Rabun County office is processing four times as many absentee ballots as it usually does.
The state of Georgia will continue to send out absentee ballots until the last week of early voting. “The last week of early voting, we will be mailing out ballots,” Lawson explained.
The absentee ballot application can be returned by email, fax, mail or placed in drop box 105 outside the Board of Elections Office.
However, the paper ballot itself can only be submitted via mail or placed in the drop box.
The application for an absentee ballot can also be found on the state’s “My Voter Page” by visiting mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do and typing in your information in the box on the right-hand side.
You can also view your registration status and get the latest election news from this website.
Early Voting Begins
Early voting began Monday and voters turned out to the Rabun County Board of Elections Office to cast their vote.
Social distancing procedures have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voters are required to stand six feet apart while waiting to vote and these spaces are marked with signs and green tape on the sidewalk.
Only one voter is allowed in the building at a time and every surface the voter comes in contact with is disinfected after use, Whitmire said.
Poll workers wear face shields as part of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for safety precautions.
“We would also like for the public to wear PPEs to help protect themselves and poll workers,” Whitmire said.
Voters should anticipate longer wait times due to these guidelines.
Early voting for the June 9 presidential preference primary and general election primary continues until June 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Saturday voting on May 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Rabun County Board of Elections Office is located at 18 Old Raco Dr. Suite 105, Clayton and can be reached by calling 706-782-1878.