ATLANTA — Georgia Democrats on Friday called for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to send absentee mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the state.
State Sen. Nikema Williams, the Georgia Democrats chairwoman, said in a conference call, that right now, there was no way to ensure that the situation with the coronavirus pandemic will subside enough to allow voters to safely gather at in-person polling sites on June 9.
On Thursday, Raffensperger announced a delay of the state's presidential primary vote for the second time -- from May 19 to June 9.
"Delaying the election by three weeks gives us no certainty the pandemic will be over and Georgians will be safe to show up at polls," Williams said.
She and the Georgia Democrats argue the safest way to vote is by mail. Republicans have argued it would make the vote more corruptible.
In announcing the delay, Raffensperger said in a statement this week, that it will allow officials to sufficiently "ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins."
Previously, Raffensperger had taken the step of sending request forms for absentee ballots to all Georgia voters.
Typically, only about five percent of voters in Georgia vote by mail, but amid the coronavirus outbreak, interest is far higher this year.
In a meeting of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections on Thursday, officials estimated they had processed nearly 6,500 absentee request applications just this week, as they began to be sent out by the secretary of state's office.
Underscoring the difficulty of the process, Board of Elections Director Richard L. Barron said a county elections worker, one of about six who had still been going into the office for a period of a few hours a day to keep things running, had been hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Georgia Democrats said processing the absentee request forms was an undue burden on counties during these times, one that could be alleviated by Raffensperger sending all voters a ballot directly.
“We’re asking for the secretary of state to send all registered voters ballots. Go ahead, send them ballots," Saira Draper, the Georgia Democrats voter protection director, said during the conference call. "It’s something they have to sign an oath for, they are the person returning the ballot. Let’s get rid of this application-interim step because right now, counties are not back to process these applications. They are getting flooded with applications they are required to process quickly; turn around quickly. We have heard from counties where staff are not allowed to report to office; other counties' administrators are sick with COVID themselves."
"These are very real hurdles to processing these applications quickly and the application step is unnecessary," she added.
The Georgia Democrats are also arguing the state needs to provide prepaid postage on the ballots. The absentee ballot request forms sent out by Raffensperger require postage to be sent back, though many counties allow voters to scan them or take a picture of them and submit the request by email.
That issue is the subject of a federal ACLU lawsuit filed this week that likens the cost of postage to a poll tax.
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