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Civil Rights Groups Continue to Call for Georgia Election Supervisors to Make Immediate Preparations if Voters who Requested Absentee Ballots Choose to Vote in Person

Voters have the right to change their mind on how they choose to vote, election officials need to make preparations for when that happens

ATLANTA – This month, three civil rights groups sent correspondence to all 159 county election supervisors in the state of Georgia calling for clear plans to accommodate the significant numbers of voters who have requested an absentee ballot but arrive to polling locations in order to surrender or cancel that ballot and then vote in-person. Today, they renew that call as fewer than 10 supervisors have replied to the correspondence.

To view the full letter, please go to: https://www.naacpldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.10.15-Voters-Who-Requested-Absentee-Ballots_Jason-Bailey.pdf

For many reasons, including widely publicized U.S. Postal Service delays, failure to receive an absentee ballot in time or have it confirmed counted on Georgia’s “My Voter Page”, and recent court decisions invalidating ballots postmarked by November 3 but received to election offices after, many of the 1.5 million Georgians who have applied for an absentee ballot may choose during early voting or November 3 to surrender and cancel that ballot in order to vote in person. 

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., SPLC Action Fund and All Voting is Local therefore wrote to election supervisors detailing both the relevant election law that protects voters’ right to change their mind on how to vote and offered a clear set of three steps to ensure Georgians’ votes are counted and in-person voting functions efficiently:

Those steps include:

1. Identify and train dedicated staff members to assist voters who need to surrender or cancel absentee ballots, so that poll managers need only review the staff members' work and approve the surrender or cancelation.

2. Develop a streamlined and efficient process for canceling absentee ballots that does not require poll managers to place a phone call to the registrar's office for each voter seeking to cancel an absentee ballot. If a phone call is necessary, establish a dedicated phone line specifically for this purpose.

3. Educate voters through all reasonable means that they may vote in person even if they requested or returned an absentee ballot, but if they do so, they should allocate additional time at their precinct to surrender or cancel their absentee ballot. 

“In an historic election during an ongoing public health crisis, we’re concerned that poll workers and election officials aren’t fully aware of Georgians’ right to change their preference in how they vote, provided an absentee ballot hasn’t been processed and counted,” said Poy Winichakul, staff attorney for the SPLC Action Fund. “Our recent correspondence hopefully makes clear a path forward so that every eligible Georgia voter can easily cast a ballot and have it count without contributing to the long lines we continue to see during early voting.”

“There are various, legitimate reasons as to why a voter would request an absentee ballot and later choose to vote in person,” said Kristen Johnson, Assistant Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. “It’s imperative that poll workers and election officials have a clear plan in place to assist such voters to avoid unnecessary delay and confusion.” 

Georgia voters can call the following number to immediately help them navigate the voting process and ensure their ballot counts: 866-OUR-VOTE

To share their story about voting after casting a ballot, voters can go to: https://www.splcenter.org/tell-us-your-voting-story