2021 Georgia Code
Title 21 - Elections
Chapter 2 - Elections and Primaries Generally
Article 10 - Absentee Voting
§ 21-2-385. Procedure for Voting by Absentee Ballot; Advance Voting
- At any time after receiving an official absentee ballot, but before the day of the primary or election, except electors who are confined to a hospital on the day of the primary or election, the elector shall vote his or her absentee ballot, then fold the ballot and enclose and securely seal the same in the envelope on which is printed "Official Absentee Ballot." This envelope shall then be placed in the second one, on which is printed the form of the oath of the elector; the name and oath of the person assisting, if any; and other required identifying information. The elector shall then fill out, subscribe, and swear to the oath printed on such envelope. In order to verify that the absentee ballot was voted by the elector who requested the ballot, the elector shall print the number of his or her Georgia driver's license number or identification card issued pursuant to Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40 in the space provided on the outer oath envelope. The elector shall also print his or her date of birth in the space provided in the outer oath envelope. If the elector does not have a Georgia driver's license or state identification card issued pursuant to Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40, the elector shall so affirm in the space provided on the outer oath envelope and print the last four digits of his or her social security number in the space provided on the outer oath envelope. If the elector does not have a Georgia driver's license, identification card issued pursuant to Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40, or a social security number, the elector shall so affirm in the space provided on the outer oath envelope and place a copy of one of the forms of identification set forth in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-417 in the outer envelope. Such envelope shall then be securely sealed and the elector shall then personally mail or personally deliver same to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk, provided that mailing or delivery may be made by the elector's mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or an individual residing in the household of such elector. The absentee ballot of a disabled elector may be mailed or delivered by the caregiver of such disabled elector, regardless of whether such caregiver resides in such disabled elector's household. The absentee ballot of an elector who is in custody in a jail or other detention facility may be mailed or delivered by any employee of such jail or facility having custody of such elector. An elector who is confined to a hospital on a primary or election day to whom an absentee ballot is delivered by the registrar or absentee ballot clerk shall then and there vote the ballot, seal it properly, and return it to the registrar or absentee ballot clerk. If the elector registered to vote for the first time in this state by mail and has not previously provided the identification required by Code Section 21-2-220 and votes for the first time by absentee ballot and fails to provide the identification required by Code Section 21-2-220 with such absentee ballot, such absentee ballot shall be treated as a provisional ballot and shall be counted only if the registrars are able to verify the identification and registration of the elector during the time provided pursuant to Code Section 21-2-419.
- A physically disabled or illiterate elector may receive assistance in preparing his or her ballot from any person of the elector's choice other than such elector's employer or the agent of such employer or an officer or agent of such elector's union; provided, however, that no person whose name appears on the ballot as a candidate at a particular primary, election, or runoff nor the 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 such candidate shall offer assistance during such primary, election, or runoff under the provisions of this Code section to any elector who is not related to such candidate. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "related to such candidate" shall mean such candidate'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. The person rendering assistance to the elector in preparing the ballot shall sign the oath printed on the same envelope as the oath to be signed by the elector. Any person who willfully violates this subsection shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years or to pay a fine not to exceed $100,000.00, or both, for each such violation.
- When an elector applies in person for an absentee ballot, after the absentee ballots have been printed, the absentee ballot may be issued to the elector at the time of the application therefor within the confines of the registrar's or absentee ballot clerk's office if such application is made during the advance voting period as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section or may be mailed to the elector, depending upon the elector's request. If the ballot is issued to the elector at the time of application, the elector shall then and there within the confines of the registrar's or absentee ballot clerk's office vote and return the absentee ballot as provided in subsections (a) and (b) of this Code section. In the case of persons voting in accordance with subsection (d) of this Code section, the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall furnish accommodations to the elector to ensure the privacy of the elector while voting his or her absentee ballot.
- There shall be a period of advance voting that shall commence:
- On the fourth Monday immediately prior to each primary or election; and
- As soon as possible prior to a runoff from any general primary or election but no later than the second Monday immediately prior to such runoff
and shall end on the Friday immediately prior to each primary, election, or runoff. Voting shall be conducted beginning at 9:00 A.M. and ending at 5:00 P.M. on weekdays, other than observed state holidays, during such period and shall be conducted on the second and third Saturdays during the hours of 9:00 A.M. through 5:00 P.M. and, if the registrar or absentee ballot clerk so chooses, the second Sunday, the third Sunday, or both the second and third Sundays prior to a primary or election during hours determined by the registrar or absentee ballot clerk, but no longer than 7:00 A.M. through 7:00 P.M.; provided, however, that, if such second Saturday is a public and legal holiday pursuant to Code Section 1-4-1, if such second Saturday follows a public and legal holiday occurring on the Thursday or Friday immediately preceding such second Saturday, or if such second Saturday immediately precedes a public and legal holiday occurring on the following Sunday or Monday, such advance voting shall not be held on such second Saturday but shall be held on the third Saturday prior to such primary or election beginning at 9:00 A.M. and ending at 5:00 P.M. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the registrars may extend the hours for voting to permit advance voting from 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. and may provide for additional voting locations pursuant to Code Section 21-2-382 to suit the needs of the electors of the jurisdiction at their option; provided, however, that voting shall occur only on the days specified in this paragraph and counties and municipalities shall not be authorized to conduct advance voting on any other days.
- The registrars or absentee ballot clerk, as appropriate, shall provide reasonable notice to the electors of their jurisdiction of the availability of advance voting as well as the times, dates, and locations at which advance voting will be conducted. In addition, the registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall notify the Secretary of State in the manner prescribed by the Secretary of State of the times, dates, and locations at which advance voting will be conducted.
- The board of registrars shall publish the dates, times, and locations of the availability of advance voting in its jurisdiction on the homepage of the county's publicly accessible website associated with elections or registrations, or if the county does not have such a website, in a newspaper of general circulation, and by posting in a prominent location in the county, no later than 14 days prior to the beginning of the advance voting period for a general primary, special primary, general election, or special election and no later than seven days prior to the beginning of the advance voting period for any run-off election. Any new advance voting locations added after that deadline shall be published in the same manner as soon as possible. The board of registrars shall not remove any advance voting location after the notice of such location is published, except in the case of an emergency or unavoidable event that renders a location unavailable for use. Any changes that are made due to an emergency or unavoidable event after a notice of a location has been published shall be published as soon as possible in the same manner set forth in this paragraph.
- There shall be a period of advance voting that shall commence:
- On each day of an absentee voting period, each county board of registrars or municipal absentee ballot clerk shall report for the county or municipality to the Secretary of State and post on the county or municipal website, or if the county or municipality does not maintain such a website, a place of public prominence in the county or municipality, not later than 10:00 A.M. on each business day the number of persons to whom absentee ballots have been issued, the number of persons who have returned absentee ballots, and the number of absentee ballots that have been rejected. Additionally, on each day of an advance voting period, each county board of registrars or municipal absentee ballot clerk shall report to the Secretary of State and post on the county or municipal website, or if the county or municipality does not maintain such a website, a place of public prominence in the county or municipality, not later than 10:00 A.M. on each business day the number of persons who have voted at the advance voting sites in the county or municipality. During the absentee voting period and for a period of three days following a primary, election, or runoff, each county board of registrars or municipal absentee ballot clerk shall report to the Secretary of State and post on the county or municipal website, or if the county or municipality does not maintain such a website, a place of public prominence in the county or municipality, not later than 10:00 A.M. on each business day the number of persons who have voted provisional ballots, the number of provisional ballots that have verified or cured and accepted for counting, and the number of provisional ballots that have been rejected.
(Ga. L. 1924, p. 186, § 4; Code 1933, § 34-3303; Ga. L. 1953, Jan.-Feb. Sess., p. 579, § 1; Ga. L. 1955, p. 204, § 3; Ga. L. 1955, p. 732, § 3; Ga. L. 1956, p. 682, §§ 3, 4; Code 1933, § 34-1406, enacted by Ga. L. 1964, Ex. Sess., p. 26, § 1; Ga. L. 1965, p. 119, § 1; Ga. L. 1968, p. 871, § 16; Ga. L. 1969, p. 329, § 22; Ga. L. 1974, p. 71, §§ 6-8; Ga. L. 1977, p. 683, § 1; Ga. L. 1980, p. 1256, § 4; Ga. L. 1981, p. 1718, § 8; Ga. L. 1983, p. 140, § 1; Ga. L. 1985, p. 496, § 14; Ga. L. 1986, p. 32, § 1; Ga. L. 1986, p. 932, § 6; Ga. L. 1988, p. 641, § 2; Ga. L. 1989, p. 1742, § 2; Ga. L. 1990, p. 143, § 5; Ga. L. 1992, p. 2510, § 3; Ga. L. 1998, p. 295, § 1; Ga. L. 2003, p. 517, § 39; Ga. L. 2006, p. 888, § 4/HB 1435; Ga. L. 2007, p. 536, § 2/SB 40; Ga. L. 2010, p. 914, § 21/HB 540; Ga. L. 2011, p. 697, § 3/HB 92; Ga. L. 2014, p. 1, § 6/HB 310; Ga. L. 2016, p. 173, § 4/SB 199; Ga. L. 2017, p. 697, § 18/HB 268; Ga. L. 2019, p. 7, § 31/HB 316; Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 28/SB 202.)
The 2017 amendment, effective July 1, 2017, substituted "primary or election" for "primary, election, or runoff" at the end of the next to last sentence of the ending undesignated paragraph of paragraph (d)(1).
The 2019 amendment, effective April 2, 2019, in subsection (a), substituted "elector; the name and oath" for "elector, the name, relationship, and oath" and "if any;" for "if any," in the middle of the second sentence; inserted "personally" following "elector shall then", substituted "mailing or delivery may be made by the elector's" for "delivery by a physically disabled elector may be made by any adult person upon satisfactory proof that such adult person is such elector's", and deleted "disabled" preceding "elector" at the end; added the fifth and sixth sentences; rewrote subsection (b); and added "but no later than the second Monday immediately prior to such runoff" at the end of subparagraph (d)(1)(D).
The 2021 amendment, effective July 1, 2021, added the present fourth through seventh sentences in subsection (a); rewrote subsection (d); and added subsection (e).Editor's notes.
- Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 1/SB 202, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "This Act shall be known and may be cited as the 'Election Integrity Act of 2021."'
Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 2/SB 202, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "The General Assembly finds and declares that:
"(1) Following the 2018 and 2020 elections, there was a significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems, with many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud;
"(2) Many Georgia election processes were challenged in court, including the subjective signature-matching requirements, by Georgians on all sides of the political spectrum before and after the 2020 general election;
"(3) The stress of the 2020 elections, with a dramatic increase in absentee-by-mail ballots and pandemic restrictions, demonstrated where there were opportunities to update existing processes to reduce the burden on election officials and boost voter confidence;
"(4) The changes made in this legislation in 2021 are designed to address the lack of elector confidence in the election system on all sides of the political spectrum, to reduce the burden on election officials, and to streamline the process of conducting elections in Georgia by promoting uniformity in voting. Several examples will help explain how these goals are achieved;
"(5) The broad discretion allowed to local officials for advance voting dates and hours led to significant variations across the state in total number of hours of advance voting, depending on the county. More than 100 counties have never offered voting on Sunday and many counties offered only a single day of weekend voting. Requiring two Saturday voting days and two optional Sunday voting days will dramatically increase the total voting hours for voters across the State of Georgia, and all electors in Georgia will have access to multiple opportunities to vote in person on the weekend for the first time;
"(6) Some counties in 2020 received significant infusions of grant funding for election operations, while other counties received no such funds. Promoting uniformity in the distribution of funds to election operations will boost voter confidence and ensure that there is no political advantage conferred by preferring certain counties over others in the distribution of funds;
"(7) Elections in Georgia are administered by counties, but that can lead to problems for voters in counties with dysfunctional election systems. Counties with long-term problems of lines, problems with processing of absentee ballots, and other challenges in administration need accountability, but state officials are limited in what they are able to do to address those problems. Ensuring there is a mechanism to address local election problems will promote voter confidence and meet the goal of uniformity;
"(8) Elections are a public process and public participation is encouraged by all involved, but the enthusiasm of some outside groups in sending multiple absentee ballot applications in 2020, often with incorrectly filled-in voter information, led to significant confusion by electors. Clarifying the rules regarding absentee ballot applications will build elector confidence while not sacrificing the opportunities for electors to participate in the process;
"(9) The lengthy absentee ballot process also led to elector confusion, including electors who were told they had already voted when they arrived to vote in person. Creating a definite period of absentee voting will assist electors in understanding the election process while also ensuring that opportunities to vote are not diminished, especially when many absentee ballots issued in the last few days before the election were not successfully voted or were returned late;
"(10) Opportunities for delivering absentee ballots to a drop box were first created by the State Election Board as a pandemic response. The drop boxes created by rule no longer existed in Georgia law when the emergency rules that created them expired. The General Assembly considered a variety of options and constructed a system that allows the use of drop boxes, while also ensuring the security of the system and providing options in emergency situations;
"(11) The lengthy nine-week runoffs in 2020 were exhausting for candidates, donors, and electors. By adding ranked choice voting for military and overseas voters, the run-off period can be shortened to a more manageable period for all involved, easing the burden on election officials and on electors;
"(12) Counting absentee ballots in 2020 took an incredibly long time in some counties. Creating processes for early processing and scanning of absentee ballots will promote elector confidence by ensuring that results are reported quickly;
"(13) The sanctity of the precinct was also brought into sharp focus in 2020, with many groups approaching electors while they waited in line. Protecting electors from improper interference, political pressure, or intimidation while waiting in line to vote is of paramount importance to protecting the election system and ensuring elector confidence;
"(14) Ballot duplication for provisional ballots and other purposes places a heavy burden on election officials. The number of duplicated ballots has continued to rise dramatically from 2016 through 2020. Reducing the number of duplicated ballots will significantly reduce the burden on election officials and creating bipartisan panels to conduct duplication will promote elector confidence;
"(15) Electors voting out of precinct add to the burden on election officials and lines for other electors because of the length of time it takes to process a provisional ballot in a precinct. Electors should be directed to the correct precinct on election day to ensure that they are able to vote in all elections for which they are eligible;
"(16) In considering the changes in 2021, the General Assembly heard hours of testimony from electors, election officials, and attorneys involved in voting. The General Assembly made significant modifications through the legislative process as it weighed the various interests involved, including adding further weekend voting, changing parameters for out-of-precinct voting, and adding transparency for ballot images; and
"(17) While each of the changes in this legislation in 2021 stands alone and is severable under Code Section 1-1-3, the changes in total reflect the General Assembly's considered judgment on the changes required to Georgia's election system to make it 'easy to vote and hard to cheat,' applying the lessons learned from conducting an election in the 2020 pandemic."Administrative Rules and Regulations.
- Provisional absentee ballots, Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, Georgia Election Code, Absentee Voting, § 183-1-14-.03.Law reviews.
- For survey article on local government law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 263 (2008). For article on the 2014 amendment of this Code section, see 31 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 93 (2014). For article on the 2019 amendment of this Code section, see 36 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 81 (2019).
- In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, decisions under former Code 1933, § 34A-1006 are included in the annotations for this Code section.Voter must remove stubs before mailing.
- Unless stubs on ballots are removed by a voter prior to being mailed, ballots are void. Nobles v. Osborne, 124 Ga. App. 454, 184 S.E.2d 207 (1971), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 853, 93 S. Ct. 183, 34 L. Ed. 2d 96 (1972) (decided under former Code 1933, § 34A-1006).Who may mail ballots for a voter.
- In an election contest, the election winner was not entitled to attorney fees under O.C.G.A. § 9-15-14(a). Given the language of O.C.G.A. § 21-2-385(a) as to who could mail ballots for a voter, the complaint could not be described as lacking any justiciable issue of law or fact, and a sufficient number of ballots could have been found invalid so as to change the election result. Kendall v. Delaney, 283 Ga. 34, 656 S.E.2d 812 (2008).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).Early voting rights.
- Voter participation organizations did not articulate any specifics as to an injury as the officials' decision was used as a proxy for voter suppression or targeted at a protected class, and as no voter would be deprived of the right to vote, the organizations were not entitled to injunctive relief against a county's election officials regarding a statutory limitation on early voting rights. Gwinnett Cty. NAACP v. Gwinnett Cty. Bd. of Registration & Elections, 484 F. Supp. 3d 1308 (N.D. Ga. 2020).
OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Restrictions unenforceable in presidential preference primary.
- The restrictions contained in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409, limiting the class of persons permitted to assist disabled or illiterate electors at the polls, and the restrictions contained in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-385, limiting the class of persons permitted to assist disabled or illiterate electors voting by absentee ballot, cannot be enforced in the presidential preference primary nor can the limitations contained in these Code sections concerning the number of persons one individual may assist be enforced. 1984 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 84-15.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.Possession of another voter's absentee ballot.
- The mere possession of another voter's absentee ballot does not constitute unlawful possession of an absentee ballot under either O.C.G.A. § 21-2-385(a) or O.C.G.A. § 21-2-574. 2016 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 16-2.
Am. Jur. 2d.
- 26 Am. Jur. 2d, Elections, §§ 241, 243, 338.C.J.S.
- 29 C.J.S., Elections, § 345 et seq.ALR.
- Validity, construction, and application of early voting statutes, 29 A.L.R.6th 343.