Along with many other Secretaries of State in the U.S., Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has designated September as National Voter Registration Month because of this year’s Presidential and other elections that will be taking place in November.
“As Georgia’s Chief Elections Official, I have worked in close cooperation with leaders at all levels of government to streamline the voter registration process in our state, leveraging the use of technology to make it easier than ever before to get on the rolls,” stated Secretary Kemp in a press release.
“During National Voter Registration Month, I urge all Georgia voters to help us reach out to the public to share this message and empower our citizens to register to vote in time for the November General Election.”
At the bare minimum, any Georgian will be voting in at least two contested elections and on four statewide ballot initiatives; potentially more depending on where one is voting.
There is the elephant in the room, the Presidential election, which will feature Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson on the ballot in Georgia, with Jill Stein as a qualified write-in candidate. There is also the election for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s seat, featuring Isakson himself, the self-funding millionaire and Democratic candidate Jim Barksdale, and the Libertarian lawyer from Smyrna, Allen Buckley.
The ballot initiatives vary greatly: from a referendum upon the use of the fireworks sales tax, to a question on raising court fees for individuals found guilty of sex crimes, to a controversial education reform package that would see Governor Deal appoint an official to run a statewide school district that would have greatly increased power over failing schools, and beyond.
The Super Tuesday primaries in Georgia saw many turnout records broken, with nearly 2 million votes casted.
Voters between the ages of 18 and 25, however, historically vote in far fewer numbers than other age groups. The difference is usually chalked up to a combination of apathy, and the difficulty of voting because of the transitory nature of many people in that age group, between changing addresses frequently and attending universities away from home; that being said, the recent advances in online voter registration and voter registration efforts from many student organizations have made it easier than ever to participate.
How to register to vote:
The deadline to register is Oct. 11.
This process can be completed within 10 minutes entirely online, or at the registration stands that one periodically sees throughout UGA.
In order to register, one will need a valid Georgia Driver’s License or other form of identification. One can either register using a parent’s/guardian’s address, or use a current dorm or apartment address. There are substantial differences depending on what address is used.
The address that you choose will affect which congressional district a vote counts in, as well as which local elections or referendums a voter can participate in. It will also affect the physical location where a voter will vote. Each voting district has designated precincts for voting, and one will have to travel to that precinct on election day or an early voting day to vote, or send an absentee ballot.
One must be 18 by the election day on November 8 to vote.
As an extra point of consideration, remember that Georgia ID Voting Laws require a Driver’s License or other form of valid ID to be presented before voting at the polls. Furthermore, on the days when voting occurs, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Federal law mandates that employers give employees two hours of paid leave to vote. Going to vote on an early voting day is a good way to save time and avoid the long lines that will be found on November 8.
Online registration can be completed on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website: https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov/GAOLVR/welcome.do#no-back-button
How to re-register, check registration, or change registration address:
To see where one is registered or if one is registered to vote, a student should use the Secretary of State’s website: https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do Follow the prompt, and enter a legal first initial, last name, and the county in which one believes he or she is registered to vote in, along with a date of birth.
The process is fairly simple. In order to change the address that one is registered to vote at. he or she needs to verify the old address and enter the new address, and also needs a driver’s license, social security number, or other form of identification. The process takes about five minutes.
How to vote using an Early/Absentee Ballot
One will need register as an Absentee Voter so you can order a ballot in advance, so it arrives in time to fill it out and mail it back. Applications are already out. One can print out a pdf of the application for a state at the link provided below. The deadline for ballot request is Nov. 4.
Ballots for the Presidential Primary need to be postmarked by Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.
The ballot itself is simply printed out on the sheet; be sure to mark it very clearly in pen, and then seal it to avoid tampering. Informational materials about the candidates or referendum choices will also generally be included.
A resource for finding the correct absentee ballot application: http://www.longdistancevoter.org/
Dates to Know
Sept. 20 – earliest day voter can receive an absentee ballot
Oct. 11 – deadline for registering to vote in General Election, regardless of voting method
Oct. 17 – advance (early) voting begins
Oct. 29 – Saturday voting day
Nov. 4, @ 5 p.m.- deadline to request an absentee ballot
Nov. 8 – Election Day; absentee ballots must be postmarked by 5 p.m.
-Alex Vanden Heuvel