Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answers questions in a DeKalb County warehouse in December, 2019.
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Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answers questions in a DeKalb County warehouse in December, 2019.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office will mail an absentee ballot request application to 6.9 million active registered voters in Georgia for the May 19 primary election, making it easier for people to vote from home as coronavirus spreads.

In a statement, Raffensperger said the move is an extraordinary effort to ensure all Georgians can vote “without fear for their health.”

“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. “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.”

Less than 10% of voters use the absentee-by-mail option for elections, a number that is likely to grow in the era of social distancing and community spread of COVID-19. Raffensperger announced March 14 that all voting in the presidential preference primary would be suspended and the election would be held in conjunction with primary elections in May.

The absentee ballot request forms will come from the state instead of the county this time and will be pre-filled with some of the necessary information for each voter. The voter will still have to fill out things like date of birth and sign the application should they choose to vote in this manner.

“With social distancing as the most important tool for limiting the spread of coronavirus, providing alternatives to voting in person is crucial,” Raffensperger said. “All Georgia voters can request and vote an absentee ballot for any reason.”

An exact cost was not provided, but the estimate is around $10 million to send the application to every single active registered voters. Those that are in “inactive” status can still request an absentee ballot application from their county elections officials.

Raffensperger also said there will be extra precautions for in-person voting, both on Election Day and during the three-week early voting period.

His office is working with counties to recruit additional poll workers who are younger as well as providing extra resources to sanitize election equipment.