More than 200 Bartow Countians already have cast their ballots in the November 6 election.
"To date, 808 absentee ballots have been mailed," Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk said. "Of those, 232 have been returned. "
Statewide, almost twice as many absentee ballots — 17,436 so far — have been mailed as compared to the same point before the 2014 midterm elections, according to numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Four years ago, 8,819 ballots had been mailed at the same point in the election cycle.
Georgia allows anyone to vote by mail on absentee ballots, but a lot of people don't understand the process required to cast an absentee ballot by mail.
"An individual voter submits an absentee ballot application either through the mail, in person, by fax or via email," Kirk said. "The application is checked by a registrar to make sure it is complete and all the information is correct. We check the signature and the handwriting so we know who is making the request."
With that resolved, the ballot is mailed to the voter, who makes his or her choices, signs an oath on the return envelope and returns the ballot to the elections office.
Upon arrival at the elections office, the ballot is checked again, this time to make sure the oath is signed and the signature is correct. If something doesn't match, the vote is rejected and the voter notified of the rejection. Otherwise the ballot is securely held until it is opened and counted on election night.
Kirk said the state makes every effort to accommodate all voters, but certain legal aspects of any election must be observed.
"You may apply for an absentee ballot on behalf of a family member if they are out-of-the country or disabled," he said. "But you can never sign their name — even if you have the power of attorney. Power of attorney has no bearing on voter registration."
Neither can someone vote on behalf of another person, even if they ask you, Kirk said. Even if they are physically disabled, they still must be able to make some sort of identifying mark.
People also confuse absentee voting with provisional voting, Kirk said.
"Provisional means there is some question as to whether the ballots are going to be counted," he said. "It could be your name is not on the list, or you don't have a photo id or their citizenship may be in question. The provisional ballot process assumes that if you request a ballot, you are an eligible voter. Voting officials will verify your eligibility after you cast your ballot. Remember that you should never be turned away from a polling place just because your name does not appear on the elector's list. Election officials are required to make every effort to provide you the opportunity to vote.
"So a provisional ballot is a way for you to cast a ballot if your eligibility cannot be immediately verified. It is the same ballot every other voter gets with all the candidates and races on it," he said.
The elections office will mail absentee ballots until the Friday before election day and they must be received by 7 p.m. election night.