Absentee voting prompts concerns - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Absentee voting prompts concerns

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June 6, 2006

Albany-  Any registered voter can now vote in Georgia without setting foot inside a polling place.   Absentee ballots are now available at county election offices statewide.  This year, anyone can register to absentee vote by mail, previously you needed a legal reason.  Election officials originally fought the new law, worried about voter fraud and now say they'll be keeping a close eye on those registering.

Fewer voters could headed to the polls this July, but more ballots could be cast. With everyone given the opportunity to absentee vote it also creates the opportunity for trouble.

"The greatest possibility for fraud lies in the absentee voting or mail out ballots," said Carolyn Hatcher, Elections Supervisor. 

To get a ballot by mail is fairly simple.

"If one wants to vote absentee by mail, all they need to do is submit a written application now," said Hatcher.

To absentee vote you do have to fill out a form, you can get one in the office or online at www.sos.state.ga.us and there is a section for listing your reason for absentee voting, but you don't have to give one.

"We have to check everything, we check signatures, we match those to voter registration cards, so we will certainly keep down the fraud," said Hatcher.

In addition to your signature, your address must also match.

"If you are not out of the county you must have it sent to your home, the same place you're registered," said Hatcher.

Election officials encourage voters to vote the traditional way, at a polling place, to keep down on the cost of mailing ballots, but say if you choose to vote absentee you should do it legally.

"If people want to commit felonies this can happen, but we're going to be diligent in checking everything and making sure that does not happen in Dougherty County," said Hatcher. 

Voting absentee by mail is the only way you could vote in this election without a picture ID. If you head out to the polls, whether it's to early vote, absentee vote in the office, or vote on election day, you will need to show one of six approved photo ID's to cast your ballot. 

The last day to register to vote in the July primary is June 19th. Dougherty County early voting will be held in a new location and several polling places have changed. 

Early voting will be held the week of July 10th, but instead of voting in the election office, voting will be held in the lobby of the James H. Gray Civic Center. Early voting was moved to offer more parking and get voters in and out quicker.  

Two other polling location have also changed. Voters who previously cast ballots at Eureka Baptist Church (1201 Lily Pond Road) will vote at Lamar Reese Elementary School (1205 Lily Pond Road) and those who vote at the Putney Community Center will now vote at Putney First Baptist Church (1125 Antioch Road). All registered voters have been mailed cards reflecting the changes.

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