ATLANTA — More than 1 million Georgia voters have already cast an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election. With the general election on Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said a half-million more voters requested but haven't returned their absentee ballot.
With Election Day one week away, Raffensperger said voters should no longer plan to mail their ballot.
"There is simply a risk at this point in having the United States Postal Service deliver your vote on time," he said.
Instead, Raffensperger is urging voters to take their absentee ballots to designated drop boxes set up in each county by 7 p.m. on Election Day to make sure their vote is counted.
"You can take it to the absentee ballot drop box," Raffensperger said. "If you have a smaller county and you don't have that, you just take it up to your county registrar, your county election official and they will take it from you there."
Previously, a federal court ruled Georgians would have up to three days after Election Day to have their absentee ballot received and counted, but an appeals court later overturned the ruling. This means that as with past elections, absentee ballots will need to be received by county elections offices before the polls close at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
After concerns earlier this year over slow the U.S. Postal Service delivery leading up to the election, a tweet from NBC News White House Correspondent Geoff Bennett explained the on-going concerns with mailing in ballots at this point in the election:
"US Postal Service on-time delivery times for First-Class Mail have dropped again - now nearly as bad as the worst period this summer," the tweet reads.
A USPS spokesman sent 11Alive a statement on voters returning absentee ballots, saying "our message for those who are eligible and choose to vote through the U.S. Mail has been and is to plan ahead and vote early.
For domestic, nonmilitary voters who choose to use the mail to return a completed ballot, our general recommendation is that, as a common-sense measure, to mail your completed ballot before Election Day, and at least one week prior to your state’s deadline. Some states may recommend allowing even more time for mailing completed ballots."
Fulton County's Director of Elections Rick Barron during a briefing with reporters Tuesday echoed Raffensperger's concerns.
"If you put it into the mail it can take anywhere from 2 to several to us," Barron said. "The ballot does need to be received by us on Election Day."
Barron said in Fulton County, there are 38 drop boxes. He added for voters wanting to vote absentee, using a drop box is now the safest way to vote and guarantee your ballot will be received.
"Ninety percent of the voters are within three miles of a drop box," he said.
According to Barron, ballots are collected daily from the drop boxes and as Election Day nears ballots will be collected twice or even three times per day.
Raffensperger said Georgians who want to vote absentee, but cannot leave their home during the pandemic, a spouse, close relative or caretaker can deliver their absentee ballot to a drop box or elections office. He said having anyone else deliver your ballot is illegal.