All 6.9 million active voters in Georgia will be mailed absentee ballot request forms in a strong effort to encourage people to vote from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday, March 24.

The state had already pushed back its presidential preference primary election, which was to be held Tuesday, to May 19 to coincide with the statewide general primary election. Early voting and election day precincts will remain open, and early voting is scheduled to begin April 27. But now voters will be able to decide on their ballot choices from home.

“Times of turbulence and upheaval like the one we Georgians face require decisive action if the liberties we hold so dear are to be preserved,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “I am acting today because the people of Georgia, from the earliest settlers to heroes like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Congressman John Lewis, have fought too long and too hard for their right to vote to have it curtailed. Georgia has faced challenges before and overcome them, and we can do so again through the grit and ingenuity that has made America a shining example for democracies around the world.”

Voters will need to return their request forms with their party of choice marked, in order to receive an actual ballot.

"I believe this is a wonderful thing for all Georgia voters; I would encourage all Barrow County voters to complete the absentee ballot application," Barrow County elections director Monica Franklin said in an email. "Request the ballot be mailed directly to your home or post office and do not risk getting out to cast a ballot in person either during advance voting or on Election Day.

"When completing the application, our office would ask that voters provide a valid phone number and/or a valid email address, if something needs clarification on the application, we can reach out and resolve any questions quickly; otherwise it might take days to even weeks to resolve."

Completed applications can be returned by dropping them off in an outside dropbox at the Barrow elections office, 233 East Broad St., Winder; by mail; email at evote@barrowga.org; fax at 770-307-1054 or taking a picture of the completed application with a smart phone and emailing it to the office.

For more information or questions call 770-307-3110.

Anyone over 65 or with a disability can request absentee ballots through the entire 2020 election cycle, including the November general election, with their application. Others will need to submit another application for future elections, according to the release. All Georgia voters can request and vote an absentee ballot for any reason.

Georgians who need language assistance and people with disabilities or others who rely on voting machines to cast their ballot will still be able to do so in person on the state’s new voting system, the release said.

Raffensperger said extra precautions will be put in place at polling locations to limit the threat of COVID-19. Poll workers will receive additional resources to clean the equipment regularly. And voters who show up to vote in person will be instructed to maintain a safe distance when waiting to vote.

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