Today the Democratic Party of Georgia called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to make improvements to the process for the May 19 primary election and make voting more accessible rather than delay the vote. Beginning this week, all registered active Georgia voters will receive a paper application in the mail that permits them to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the May 19, 2020 primary election. The Democratic Party of Georgia supports this move by the Secretary of State to make voting more accessible. However, more remains to be done to ensure that all Georgians can exercise their fundamental right to vote, including the state funding the cost of postage for the return of vote-by-mail requests and ballots.
The Democratic Party of Georgia has been in communication with the Secretary of State’s office as decisions to expand vote by mail have been made, and continues to advocate for policies that protect voting rights.
“Rather than delaying the vote, it is critical that the State expand vote-by-mail and make it accessible for more voters,” said Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams. “Without measures like guaranteeing paid postage for vote by mail ballots or expanding this vote by mail ballot program beyond the May primary, significant barriers remain for all Georgians to safely exercise their right to vote without risking their health or that of their communities.”
Purchasing stamps from a post office presents a significant barrier to many Georgians, and in light of the public health crisis presents an unnecessary risk to the health and welfare of Georgians and their communities. Georgia may receive more than $10 million dollars from funds recently appropriated by Congress to protect voting during this public health crisis and the state should use some of those funds to cover the cost of postage.
Another step that Georgia can take to protect the health of voters, while still guaranteeing citizens’ right to vote is expanding the vote by mail program through the 2020 election cycle. Doing so is a common-sense measure that will save the State money, lower the administrative burden on county elections administrators, and provide certainty to voters.
“The ability for Georgians to plan ahead strengthens their capacity to keep their families safe while not forgoing making their voices heard, and we need to guarantee to voters that these protections will be in place for elections throughout 2020,” said Scott Hogan, Executive Director of the DPG. “The discussion on how best to dictate society’s path forward is happening now, and every citizen should have their say in the matters of the day.”
Last week, the DPG released a detailed list of other policies necessary to protect and expand the right to vote in Georgia.
As it stands now, hundreds of thousands of registered Georgia voters who have been placed by the State in “inactive status” will not automatically receive a vote-by-mail application, and neither will the many Georgians who will register to vote between now and April 20. The Secretary of State should encourage the participation of all eligible citizens by also sending them vote-by-mail applications and by allowing for an online streamlined ballot application process for the May 19 primary election that only requires voters to provide: (1) the voter’s name and date of birth; (2) the address to which the ballot should be sent; and (3) the ballot the voter wants to receive (Democrat, Republican, or non-partisan).
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, DPG’s voter protection team is reaching out to voters to walk them through the vote-by-mail process. The DPG maintains a 24 hour voter protection hotline to serve all voters in the state with every stage of the voting process. Any Georgia voter can contact the hotline for assistance casting their ballot by calling 888-730-5816.
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