Unless you have been living under a rock or on a deserted island for the last few months, you should be aware that we have pretty important elections for some fairly important offices coming up. If you don’t follow the news, you’ve probably at least heard some chatter or rumors about a new governor.
If you’re not the type of person who follows political news or if this is the first election you’ve ever really been interested in, you probably have some questions about voting and you may not be comfortable asking those questions to your more politically-inclined friends. If that’s your story, this guide is for you.
This guide will answer some of your questions about how to register and vote in Georgia. We will not cover the candidates or the offices, but you can find some of that information in the two articles linked below.
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Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get to your questions about voting in Georgia.
Do I need to be registered to vote?: Yes. You have until April 24 to register for the May 22 election.
How do I register?: Georgia makes it pretty easy to register. You can actually register online. Follow this link to register. If you’re not comfortable with online registration, the link will also tell you how to register by mail.
I’m not sure if I am registered to vote. How can I find out?: Georgia also makes this easy. Head over to the state’s handy “My Voter Page” and enter some information about yourself. The website will tell you if you’re registered, where to vote if you are and show you a sample ballot for your precinct.
When is the election?: The primary and nonpartisan election is May 22. The general election is Nov. 6.
What is the Primary?: In a primary election, the republicans run against other republicans and democrats run against other democrats. The top democrat vote-getter will run against the top republican vote-getter.
What is a Non-partisan election?: In a non-partisan election, party affiliation is not shown on the ballot because the political party is not relevant to the position. Commonly, school board seats and city council seats are non-partisan because whether or not one identifies as a republican or a democrat isn’t important to a local office.
What is the General election?: This is the November election you are probably most familiar with. Voters will get to choose between the republican and democratic candidates that won in the primary.
How do I change my party affiliation: Georgia does not require a party affiliation when you register. However, when you show up to vote in the May 22 primary, you can only vote for one party. You will be asked which ballot you want. You don’t have to be a republican to vote on the republican ballot and you don’t have to be a democrat to vote on the democrat ballot. Choosing one ballot over the other does not list you as a member of either political party. You’re simply choosing which set of candidates you want to vote for. While most voters go with the party they prefer, some voters will choose the opposite party’s ballot so that they can vote against specific people they don’t want their candidates to face in the general election. This is fair game.
Can I vote on the democratic ballot in the primary and then vote in a republican primary runoff? This is one of the quirks of Georgia election laws. If you choose one party in a primary and there is a runoff between two of those candidates, you have to stick with the party you picked in the primary during the runoff. So, you can’t pick the democratic ballot and then vote in the republican primary.
Can I vote for either party in the general election?: Of course. That’s what general elections are for.
If I don’t vote in the primary, can I vote in the general election: Absolutely.
If I vote in the primary, do I have to vote in the general election: No one is going to show up to your house with a badge and escort you to the polls. But why would you go to all that trouble to read this guide, vote in the primary, and then not vote in the general election?
Do I have to register to vote in the primary, then in the runoff and then again in the general election?: No. Once you register to vote, you are registered and can vote in all subsequent elections. However, if you fail to vote in several elections, you may be marked inactive. If you don’t vote for 3 years, you will be marked inactive. If you miss 2 federal election cycles after that, you will need to re-register.
3 years? I thought Elections were ever 4 years: Presidential elections are every four years. However, there is usually a local election of some sort happening at least once every year. Once you start voting, you will find that you have several opportunities to exercise your newfound right.
What are the requirements to register to vote?: Voters must be a citizen of Georgia and the United States, they must live in the county and city they are voting in. Voters also have to be at least 17 and a half years old, not be serving a sentence for a felony and cannot have been found mentally incompetent by a judge.
How will I know once my registration is complete?: You should receive a voter registration card in the mail. If you don’t, you can go to the My Voter Page to check the status of your registration.
What do I do if I’ve moved since the last time I voted?: Good news! You don’t have to re-register. You do have to change your address. This can be done by going to the online voter registration page. This is the same page you go to if you need to register to vote, but it can also be used to change your address. This also applies to name changes, so if you just got married, you’ll need to update your voter info as well.
Can I vote absentee?: Yes. You don’t actually have to be out of county or out of state. Any resident of Georgia can vote absentee for any reason or no reason. All you have to do is contact your local registrar’s office to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you. Don’t know how to contact your registrar? Just head over to the — you guessed it — My Voter Page to find your county registrar’s contact information.
What if I forgot to get an absentee ballot and can’t make it to the polls on Election Day? Is there any way I can still vote?: Yes. Polls in your area will be open prior to the election for Early Voting. This allows you to vote on your schedule and at a time that is convenient for you instead of having to wait for Election Day. Early voting may not be at your usual polling place, so you’ll need to visit the My Voter Page to find out where you can go to vote early.
I requested an absentee ballot, but didn’t fill it out in time. Can I still vote in person?: You may. You’ll just need to take your absentee ballot to the polls with you. Hand it to the nice poll-worker who will promptly destroy it. Once your absentee ballot has been disposed of, you can vote the traditional way on the traditional day.
How long do I have to vote on Election Day?: Polls must be open at least from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the state. So, unless you work a 12-hour shift that happens to run from 7 to 7, you should have some time during the day to vote.
Do I need an ID to vote?: In Georgia, a photo ID is required to vote. Most commonly, this is your driver’s license, but you can also use any federal or military ID, a passport or any state issued ID. If you’re an employee of any level of government, you can use your employee ID. If you have none of these forms of identification, you can visit your county office of voter registration to obtain a free voter ID.
My driver’s license is expired. Can I still use it to vote?: Well, we’d recommend getting your driver’s license renewed first, but if for some reason you can’t, you can use an expired driver’s license as a valid form of ID. We highly recommend that you have someone with an unexpired license drive you to the polls. Unless you own a horse and travel on horseback and that’s why you’ve allowed your driver’s license to expire.
I have a tendency to leave my driver’s license in my other pants. If I do this on election day, can I still vote?: Really? You commonly drive places without your license? Ok, you may need help with more things than just voting, but, if you somehow find yourself at the polls with no ID, you can fill out what’s called a provisional ballot. Your vote will be recorded, but not counted until you can prove you are a valid voter. The poll worker will provide you with written instructions on how to make your provisional ballot into an actual ballot. Here’s hoping you didn’t forget your glasses or contacts as well.
I don’t have childcare for my children. Can I take them to vote?: Yes. The state encourages children to accompany their parents to the polls. It is an educational experience. They only ask that your children stay with you, don’t interfere with anyone else’s desire to vote, and keep their hands off the voting machines.
Got questions that weren’t answered here? Ask them in the comments section below and we’ll answer them.