Georgia Makes Early Ballot Counting Mandatory in Jan. 5 Runoff

December 27, 2020 Updated: December 27, 2020

The upcoming runoff elections in Georgia will operate in the same manner as the Nov. 3 election, except for one minor change, a spokesperson from the secretary of state’s office says.

Counties are allowed to start tallying the absentee and mail-in ballots two weeks before the Jan. 5 runoff, the spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

This time, though, it will be required starting on Dec. 30, one week before Election Day. Consequently, results should be posted much more quickly than in November, when it took days before an unofficial result was available.

“We had some counties in the general election who didn’t take advantage of the extra time, and as a result, we were waiting on them,” the spokesperson said. He said some counties waited until Election Day to start counting their mail-in ballots.

Responding to criticism from poll watchers who said they didn’t have meaningful access to the counting process, the spokesperson said “most parts of the election process are open to the public.”

“But the law doesn’t require them to have to be close enough to where they can actually look on the ballots and make their own opinion about whether or not that was a mark for Smith or Brown,” he said.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said the Nov. 3 election was run well and he stands by the results. However, he said on Dec. 23 that he wants the state to stop allowing no-excuse absentee balloting during elections, saying the method “opens the door to potential illegal voting.”

Currently, anyone who wants to vote by mail can do so by applying for an absentee ballot—a provision that has been in place since 2005, but until this year was only ever used by 5 to 7 percent of voters.

“It makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person early voting available,” Raffensperger said at a state hearing on Dec. 23.

Early voting for the runoff began on Dec. 7, and all but overseas ballots must be cast or received by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5.

Overseas ballots and ballot curing can still occur through Jan. 8, but the number of ballots in those categories are expected to be fairly low, the spokesperson said. Ballot curing is most common in mail-in ballots, when the voter hasn’t signed the outer envelope. In this case, the local elections office contacts the voter and allows them to correct the mistake via a provisional ballot.

As of Dec. 22, more than 1.7 million ballots had already been cast in the runoff, the spokesperson said.

The election will decide two U.S. Senate seats as well as the state’s public utility commissioner.

Senate Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are up against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively. Currently, Republicans hold 50 seats in the Senate, while Democrats have 48.

Georgia’s presidential election results are under contention as allegations of fraud have surfaced, challenging the slim lead (12,670 votes) that Democratic nominee Joe Biden has over President Donald Trump.

Lawyer Sidney Powell filed an emergency petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 11 in a case that alleges “massive fraud” in Georgia, including ballot stuffing and vote manipulation.

On the same day, the Supreme Court docketed an appeal brought by lawyer Lin Wood that claims that election rules unconstitutionally changed by state officials could have invalidated absentee ballots.

Matt Braynard, the head of the Voter Integrity Project, said on Dec. 10 that he’s delivered evidence of more than 21,000 election anomalies and irregularities to three top Georgia officials. The list includes Georgians who had submitted a national change of address form, indicating they had moved out of state, yet appeared to have voted in 2020 in the state they moved from.

Raffensperger said he’s sent out 800 warning letters to people who requested a ballot for the runoff election, but have indicated they’ve moved out of state.

“Let this be a warning to anyone looking to come to Georgia temporarily to cast a ballot in the runoffs or anyone who has established residence in another state but thinks they can game the system: we will find you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a press statement.

Raffensperger recertified Georgia’s presidential election results on Dec. 7, following a hand recount and a machine recount.

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