2022 Georgia Code
Title 21 - Elections
Chapter 2 - Elections and Primaries Generally
Article 10 - Absentee Voting
§ 21-2-382. Additional Buildings as Additional Registrar’s Office or Place of Registration for Receiving Absentee Ballots and for Advance Voting; Drop Boxes

Universal Citation: GA Code § 21-2-382 (2022)
  1. Any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, the board of registrars may establish additional registrar’s offices or places of registration for the purpose of receiving absentee ballots under Code Section 21-2-381 and for the purpose of advance voting under Code Section 21-2-385, provided that any such site is a building that is a branch of the county courthouse, a courthouse annex, a government service center providing general government services, another government building generally accessible to the public, or a building that is used as an election day polling place, notwithstanding that such building is not a government building.
  2. Any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, in all counties of this state having a population of 550,000 or more according to the United States decennial census of 1990 or any future such census, any building that is a branch of the county courthouse or courthouse annex established within any such county shall be an additional registrar’s or absentee ballot clerk’s office or place of registration for the purpose of receiving absentee ballots under Code Section 21-2-381 and for the purpose of advance voting under Code Section 21-2-385.
    1. A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall establish at least one drop box as a means for absentee by mail electors to deliver their ballots to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk. A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional drop boxes, subject to the limitations of this Code section, but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting locations in the county. Any additional drop boxes shall be evenly geographically distributed by population in the county. Drop boxes established pursuant to this Code section shall be established at the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or inside locations at which advance voting, as set forth in subsection (d) of Code Section 21-2-385, is conducted in the applicable primary, election, or runoff and may be open during the hours of advance voting at that location. Such drop boxes shall be closed when advance voting is not being conducted at that location. All drop boxes shall be closed when the advance voting period ends, as set forth in subsection (d) of Code Section 21-2-385. The drop box location shall have adequate lighting and be under constant surveillance by an election official or his or her designee, law enforcement official, or licensed security guard. During an emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to Code Section 38-3-51, drop boxes may be located outside the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or outside of locations at which advance voting is taking place, subject to the other limitations of this Code section.
    2. The opening slot of a drop box shall not allow ballots to be tampered with or removed and shall be designed to minimize the ability for liquid or other substances that may damage ballots to be poured into the drop box. A drop box shall be labeled “OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOT DROP BOX” and shall clearly display the signage developed by the Secretary of State pertaining to Georgia law with regard to who is allowed to return absentee ballots and destroying, defacing, or delaying delivery of ballots.
    3. The board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall arrange for the collecting and return of ballots deposited at each drop box at the conclusion of each day where advance voting takes place. Collection of ballots from a drop box shall be made by a team of at least two people. Any person collecting ballots from a drop box shall have sworn an oath in the same form as the oath for poll officers set forth in Code Section 21-2-95. The collection team shall complete and sign a ballot transfer form upon removing the ballots from the drop box which shall include the date, time, location, number of ballots, confirmation that the drop box was locked after the removal of the ballots, and the identity of each person collecting the ballots. The collection team shall then immediately transfer the ballots to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk, who shall process and store the ballots in the same manner as absentee ballots returned by mail are processed and stored. The board of registrars, absentee ballot clerk, or a designee of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall sign the ballot transfer form upon receipt of the ballots from the collection team. Such form shall be considered a public record pursuant to Code Section 50-18-70.
    4. At the beginning of voting at each advance location where a drop box is present, the manager of the advance voting location shall open the drop box and confirm on the reconciliation form for that advance voting location that the drop box is empty. If the drop box is not empty, the manager shall secure the contents of the drop box and immediately inform the election superintendent, board of registrars, or absentee ballot clerk, who shall inform the Secretary of State.

History. Code 1933, § 34-1406.1, enacted by Ga. L. 1979, p. 677, § 1; Ga. L. 1981, p. 534, § 1; Ga. L. 1982, p. 3, § 21; Ga. L. 1992, p. 1208, § 1; Ga. L. 1995, p. 1027, § 8; Ga. L. 1998, p. 295, § 1; Ga. L. 1999, p. 52, § 11A; Ga. L. 2010, p. 914, § 19/HB 540; Ga. L. 2019, p. 7, § 28/HB 316; Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 26/SB 202.

The 2019 amendment, effective April 2, 2019, in subsection (a), deleted “or” preceding “another government building” near the end, and added “, or a location that is used as an election day polling place, notwithstanding that such location is not a government building” at the end.

The 2021 amendment, effective March 25, 2021, in subsection (a), deleted “additional sites as” following “registrars may establish” near the beginning, substituted “advance voting” for “voting absentee ballots”, inserted “is a building that” near the middle, and substituted “building” for “location” in two places near the end; in subsection (b), inserted “building that is a” near the beginning, and substituted “advance voting” for “voting absentee ballots” near the end; and added subsection (c).

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.

Additional sites as additional registrar’s offices or places of registration for absentee ballots, Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, Georgia Election Code, Absentee Voting, § 183-1-14-.08.

Law reviews.

For article on the 2019 amendment of this Code section, see 36 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 81 (2019).

For article, “SB 202: Revisions to Georgia’s Election and Voting Procedures,” see 38 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 105 (2021).

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