2020 Georgia Code
Title 21 - Elections
Chapter 2 - Elections and Primaries Generally
Article 10 - Absentee Voting
§ 21-2-381. Making of Application for Absentee Ballot; Determination of Eligibility by Ballot Clerk; Furnishing of Applications to Colleges and Universities; Persons Entitled to Make Application

Universal Citation: GA Code § 21-2-381 (2020)
      1. Except as otherwise provided in Code Section 21-2-219, not more than 180 days prior to the date of the primary or election, or runoff of either, in which the elector desires to vote, any absentee elector may make, either by mail, by facsimile transmission, by electronic transmission, or in person in the registrar's or absentee ballot clerk's office, an application for an official ballot of the elector's precinct to be voted at such primary, election, or runoff.
      2. In the case of an elector residing temporarily out of the county or municipality or a physically disabled elector residing within the county or municipality, the application for the elector's absentee ballot may, upon satisfactory proof of relationship, be made by such elector's mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law of the age of 18 or over.
      3. The application shall be in writing and shall contain sufficient information for proper identification of the elector; the permanent or temporary address of the elector to which the absentee ballot shall be mailed; the identity of the primary, election, or runoff in which the elector wishes to vote; and the name and relationship of the person requesting the ballot if other than the elector.
      4. Except in the case of physically disabled electors residing in the county or municipality or electors in custody in a jail or other detention facility in the county or municipality, no absentee ballot shall be mailed to an address other than the permanent mailing address of the elector as recorded on the elector's voter registration record or a temporary out-of-county or out-of-municipality address.
      5. Relatives applying for absentee ballots for electors must also sign an oath stating that facts in the application are true.
      6. If the elector is unable to fill out or sign such elector's own application because of illiteracy or physical disability, the elector shall make such elector's mark, and the person filling in the rest of the application shall sign such person's name below it as a witness.
      7. Any elector meeting criteria of advanced age or disability specified by rule or regulation of the State Election Board or any elector who is entitled to vote by absentee ballot under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1973ff, et seq., as amended, may request in writing on one application a ballot for a presidential preference primary held pursuant to Article 5 of this chapter and for a primary as well as for any runoffs resulting therefrom and for the election for which such primary shall nominate candidates as well as any runoffs resulting therefrom. If not so requested by such person, a separate and distinct application shall be required for each primary, run-off primary, election, and run-off election. Except as otherwise provided in this subparagraph, a separate and distinct application for an absentee ballot shall always be required for any special election or special primary.
    1. A properly executed registration card submitted under the provisions of subsection (b) of Code Section 21-2-219, if submitted within 180 days of a primary or election in which the registrant is entitled to vote, shall be considered to be an application for an absentee ballot under this Code section, or for a special absentee ballot under Code Section 21-2-381.1, as appropriate.
    2. Reserved.
    3. In extraordinary circumstances as described in Code Section 21-2-543.1, the registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall determine if the applicants are eligible to vote under this Code section and shall either mail or issue the absentee ballots for the election for representative in the United States Congress to an individual entitled to make application for absentee ballot under subsection (d) of this Code section the same day any such application is received, so long as the application is received by 3:00 P.M., otherwise no later than the next business day following receipt of the application. Any valid absentee ballot shall be accepted and processed so long as the ballot is received by the registrar or absentee ballot clerk not later than 45 days after the ballot is transmitted to the absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter, but in no event later than 11 days following the date of the election.
    1. Upon receipt of a timely application for an absentee ballot, a registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall enter thereon the date received. The registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall determine, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, if the applicant is eligible to vote in the primary or election involved. In order to be found eligible to vote an absentee ballot by mail, the registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall compare the identifying information on the application with the information on file in the registrar's office and, if the application is signed by the elector, compare the signature or mark of the elector on the application with the signature or mark of the elector on the elector's voter registration card. In order to be found eligible to vote an absentee ballot in person at the registrar's office or absentee ballot clerk's office, such person shall show one of the forms of identification listed in Code Section 21-2-417 and the registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall compare the identifying information on the application with the information on file in the registrar's office.
    2. If found eligible, the registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall certify by signing in the proper place on the application and then:
      1. Shall mail the ballot as provided in this Code section;
      2. If the application is made in person, shall issue the ballot to the elector within the confines of the registrar's or absentee ballot clerk's office as required by Code Section 21-2-383 if the ballot is issued during the advance voting period established pursuant to subsection (d) of Code Section 21-2-385; or
      3. May deliver the ballot in person to the elector if such elector is confined to a hospital.
    3. If found ineligible, the clerk or the board of registrars shall deny the application by writing the reason for rejection in the proper space on the application and shall promptly notify the applicant in writing of the ground of ineligibility, a copy of which notification should be retained on file in the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk for at least one year. However, an absentee ballot application shall not be rejected due to an apparent mismatch between the signature of the elector on the application and the signature of the elector on file with the board of registrars. In such cases, the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall send the elector a provisional absentee ballot with the designation "Provisional Ballot" on the outer oath envelope and information prepared by the Secretary of State as to the process to be followed to cure the signature discrepancy. If such ballot is returned to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk prior to the closing of the polls on the day of the primary or election, the elector may cure the signature discrepancy by submitting an affidavit to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk along with a copy of one of the forms of identification enumerated in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-417 before the close of the period for verifying provisional ballots contained in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-419. If the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk finds the affidavit and identification to be sufficient, the absentee ballot shall be counted as other absentee ballots. If the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk finds the affidavit and identification to be insufficient, then the procedure contained in Code Section 21-2-386 shall be followed for rejected absentee ballots.
    4. If the registrar or clerk is unable to determine the identity of the elector from information given on the application, the registrar or clerk should promptly write to request additional information.
    5. In the case of an unregistered applicant who is eligible to register to vote, the clerk or the board shall immediately mail a blank registration card as provided by Code Section 21-2-223, and such applicant, if otherwise qualified, shall be deemed eligible to vote by absentee ballot in such primary or election, if the registration card, properly completed, is returned to the clerk or the board on or before the last day for registering to vote in such primary or election. If the closing date for registration in the primary or election concerned has not passed, the clerk or registrar shall also mail a ballot to the applicant, as soon as it is prepared and available; and the ballot shall be cast in such primary or election if returned to the clerk or board not later than the close of the polls on the day of the primary or election concerned.
  1. In those counties or municipalities in which the absentee ballot clerk or board of registrars provides application forms for absentee ballots, the clerk or board shall provide such quantity of the application form to the dean of each college or university located in that county as said dean determines necessary for the students of such college or university.
    1. A citizen of the United States permanently residing outside the United States is entitled to make application for an absentee ballot from Georgia and to vote by absentee ballot in any election for presidential electors and United States senator or representative in Congress:
      1. If such citizen was last domiciled in Georgia immediately before his or her departure from the United States; and
      2. If such citizen could have met all qualifications, except any qualification relating to minimum voting age, to vote in federal elections even though, while residing outside the United States, he or she does not have a place of abode or other address in Georgia.
    2. An individual is entitled to make application for an absentee ballot under paragraph (1) of this subsection even if such individual's intent to return to Georgia may be uncertain, as long as:
      1. He or she has complied with all applicable Georgia qualifications and requirements which are consistent with 42 U.S.C. Section 1973ff concerning absentee registration for and voting by absentee ballots;
      2. He or she does not maintain a domicile, is not registered to vote, and is not voting in any other state or election district of a state or territory or in any territory or possession of the United States; and
      3. He or she has a valid passport or card of identity and registration issued under the authority of the Secretary of State of the United States or, in lieu thereof, an alternative form of identification consistent with 42 U.S.C. Section 1973ff and applicable state requirements, if a citizen does not possess a valid passport or card of identity and registration.
  2. The State Election Board is authorized to promulgate reasonable rules and regulations for the implementation of paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section. Said rules and regulations may include provisions for the limitation of opportunities for fraudulent application, including, but not limited to, comparison of voter registration records with death certificates.

(Ga. L. 1924, p. 186, §§ 3, 6; Code 1933, §§ 34-3302, 34-3305; Ga. L. 1943, p. 228, § 1; Ga. L. 1955, p. 204, §§ 1, 2; Ga. L. 1955, p. 732, §§ 1, 2; Ga. L. 1957, p. 39, § 1; Code 1933, § 34-1402, enacted by Ga. L. 1964, Ex. Sess., p. 26, § 1; Ga. L. 1969, p. 329, §§ 18-20; Ga. L. 1974, p. 71, §§ 1-3; Ga. L. 1977, p. 550, § 1; Ga. L. 1978, p. 1004, § 31; Ga. L. 1979, p. 633, § 1; Ga. L. 1981, p. 1718, § 7; Ga. L. 1983, p. 140, § 1; Ga. L. 1984, p. 1, § 11; Ga. L. 1985, p. 632, § 3; Ga. L. 1986, p. 32, § 1; Ga. L. 1986, p. 932, § 5; Ga. L. 1987, p. 417, § 4; Ga. L. 1987, p. 1360, § 14; Ga. L. 1988, p. 641, § 1; Ga. L. 1989, p. 849, § 2; Ga. L. 1989, p. 1742, § 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 143, § 3; Ga. L. 1992, p. 1815, § 2; Ga. L. 1994, p. 1406, § 22; Ga. L. 1994, p. 1443, § 4; Ga. L. 1995, p. 8, § 1; Ga. L. 1997, p. 649, § 4; Ga. L. 1997, p. 662, § 1; Ga. L. 1998, p. 145, § 1; Ga. L. 1998, p. 295, § 1; Ga. L. 1999, p. 52, § 11; Ga. L. 2001, p. 230, § 13; Ga. L. 2001, p. 240, § 33; Ga. L. 2003, p. 517, § 36; Ga. L. 2005, p. 253, § 51/HB 244; Ga. L. 2006, p. 69, § 1/SB 467; Ga. L. 2008, p. 448, §§ 2, 3/SB 387; Ga. L. 2008, p. 781, § 10/HB 1112; Ga. L. 2009, p. 41, § 1/SB 47; Ga. L. 2010, p. 569, § 2/HB 1073; Ga. L. 2010, p. 914, § 18/HB 540; Ga. L. 2011, p. 683, § 10/SB 82; Ga. L. 2011, p. 697, § 1/HB 92; Ga. L. 2017, p. 697, § 16/HB 268; Ga. L. 2019, p. 7, § 27/HB 316.)

The 2017 amendment, effective July 1, 2017, in subparagraph (a)(1)(G), inserted "a presidential preference primary held pursuant to Article 5 of this chapter and for" near the end of the first sentence, and deleted "for the presidential preference primary held pursuant to Article 5 of this chapter and" following "required" in the middle of the third sentence; and, in subparagraph (b)(2)(B), inserted "on a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system", inserted "as required by Code Section 21-2-383", and inserted "the ballot is" near the middle of the sentence.

The 2019 amendment, effective April 2, 2019, inserted "or electors in custody in a jail or other detention facility in the county or municipality" in the middle of subparagraph (a)(1)(D); deleted "to be voted on a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system" following "the elector" in the middle of subparagraph (b)(2)(B); and added the second through fifth sentences of paragraph (b)(3).

Code Commission notes.

- Pursuant to Code Section28-9-3, in 2011, the amendment of paragraph (b)(2) of this Code section by Ga. L. 2011, p. 683, § 10/SB 82, was treated as impliedly repealed and superseded by Ga. L. 2011, p. 697, § 1/HB 92, due to irreconcilable conflict. See County of Butts v. Strahan, 151 Ga. 417 (1921); Keener v. McDougall, 232 Ga. 273 (1974).

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 1994, p. 1443, § 28, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "This Act shall become effective upon its approval by the Governor or upon its becoming law without such approval [April 15, 1994] for the purpose of authorizing the Secretary of State to design and distribute such forms and materials and to develop, procure, and install such computer hardware and software as are required under the provisions of this Act and to exercise such administrative authority as such officer deems necessary and proper for the implementation of this Act. For all other purposes, this Act shall become effective January 1, 1995."

Administrative Rules and Regulations.

- Absentee ballot envelope, definition of advanced age, use of symbols, Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, Georgia Election Code, Absentee Voting, § 183-1-14-.01.

Law reviews.

- For article, "Local Government Law," see 53 Mercer L. Rev. 389 (2001). For note on the 2001 amendment to this Code section, see 18 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 114 (2001).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Impact of 2010 amendment.

- General Assembly amended O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381(a)(1)(C) by deleting the requirement that the elector state "the reason for requesting the absentee ballot, if applicable". Spalding County Bd. of Elections v. McCord, 287 Ga. 835, 700 S.E.2d 558 (2010).

Construction.

- Plain language of O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381(b) requires that election officials verify the eligibility of absentee voters by one and only one criterion, their identification, and because O.C.G.A. §§ 21-2-380(b) and21-2-381 are the later enacted statutes and reflect the General Assembly's repeated enactments over the past seven years to expand the scope and ease of absentee voting, the clear language of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-2-380(b) and21-2-381 must control. Spalding County Bd. of Elections v. McCord, 287 Ga. 835, 700 S.E.2d 558 (2010).

Standing.

- Former jail inmate lacked standing to assert a claim that an absentee voting statute, O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381(a)(1)(D), was unconstitutionally applied to deny absentee ballots to inmates; the inmate's failure to receive a ballot was not fairly traceable to application of the statute as the inmate's application for an absentee ballot did not provide the jail's address. Swann v. Sec'y, 668 F.3d 1285 (11th Cir. 2012).

Invalidation of election reversed on appeal.

- Trial court erred by invalidating an election for sheriff and ordering a new election because the evidence of systemic misconduct for vote buying and alleged wrongful distribution of absentee ballots was speculative and insufficient to support the trial court's conclusion that irregularities cause doubt on the results. Meade v. Williamson, 293 Ga. 142, 745 S.E.2d 279 (2013).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Georgia resident who moves within 30 days of election eligible to vote absentee.

- A citizen of Georgia who moves to another state, beginning residence therein after the thirtieth day next preceding the election for President and Vice-President, should be permitted to register to vote for such officers up to 14 days prior to the election, and to vote, either in person, or by absentee ballot, assuming the person satisfied the requirements for absentee voting. 1972 Op. Att'y Gen. No. U72-51.

County board of registrars may require additional information.

- Former Code 1933, § 34-1402 (see now O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381) requires an application for an absentee voter's ballot to contain certain information, but also allows a county board of registrars to require additional information. 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. No. U70-169.

Absentee elector who is within the state must apply for the elector's own ballot, although the elector may do so by mail as well as in person. 1974 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 74-54.

Number of applications obtainable.

- It is permissible for an individual to obtain numerous absentee ballot applications from the county registrar, but the county registrar may limit the number of applications to prevent waste and for other similar considerations. 1984 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 84-73.

One applying for ballot must bear proper relationship to absentee elector.

- The board of registrars may and should refuse to issue a ballot for an absentee elector when the application is made by anyone not bearing the proper relationship to the elector. 1968 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 68-85.

Delivery of ballot to another not authorized.

- Former Code 1933, § 34-1402 (see now O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381) did not authorize the actual delivery of an absentee ballot to one other than the elector. 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. No. U70-155.

Delivery of ballots to hospitalized individuals.

- Registrars may deliver absentee ballots to individuals hospitalized on the date of a primary or election or at times prior to the primary or election. 1990 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 90-30.

Request for all information sought by registration provisions.

- Where there is an absence of information on a registration card, and a consequent lack of correspondence between that source of information and the information provided on the completed absentee ballot application, the registrar may properly request the absentee ballot applicants to furnish all the information which is sought by former Code 1933 §§ 34-614 and 34A-509 (see now O.C.G.A. § 21-2-217) in the event the applicant does not furnish the requested information, the applicant's application may be rejected. 1976 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 76-2.

Incomplete registration card may make applicant ineligible to vote.

- If upon examination of an application for absentee ballot, the appropriate officer ascertains that the supporting registration card is incomplete by reason of the absence of the required signature, the officer should determine the applicant to be ineligible and proceed accordingly. 1976 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 76-2.

Where the appropriate officer, upon examination of the registration card supporting an application for absentee ballot, found the registration complete as to signature but incomplete as to other information required by the statutory form, and where by executing the oath prescribed by the registration card the applicant furnished information, albeit incomplete, as to both the applicant's identity and the applicant's qualifications to vote, a summary finding under former Code 1933, § 34-1402(b) (see now O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381(b)) that the applicant for an absentee ballot was ineligible to vote was precluded. 1976 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 76-2.

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 26 Am. Jur. 2d, Elections, § 337.

C.J.S.

- 29 C.J.S., Elections, § 345 et seq.

ALR.

- Voting by persons in the military service, 140 A.L.R. 1100; 147 A.L.R. 1443; 148 A.L.R. 1402; 149 A.L.R. 1466; 150 A.L.R. 1460; 151 A.L.R. 1464; 152 A.L.R. 1459; 153 A.L.R. 1434; 154 A.L.R. 1459; 155 A.L.R. 1459.

State voting rights of residents of federal military establishment, 34 A.L.R.2d 1193.

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