Whether you're a first-time or frequent voter, it is possible you might encounter an unforeseen issue while trying to vote. According to Pew Research, in 2020, "about 6% of voters say they encountered difficulties when casting their ballot", many citing long lines or problems casting their absentee ballot as their quoted difficulty (The Voting Experience in 2020). Although some of the issues listed below may require the help of your local elections office to resolve, there are also steps you as a voter can take to avoid these problems or resolve them if they occur. Please note that this page is designed to provide some guidance for common scenarios mentioned during the 2020 election in the hopes to inform voters for future elections, but it is not comprehensive. If you have serious concerns about your ability to vote, please contact your local elections office.
Absentee Ballot Applications
During the 2020 election cycle, there was a lot of confusion on the difference between an absentee ballot application and an actual absentee ballot. An absentee ballot application is what you fill out and submit in order to receive an absentee ballot. You will only receive one absentee ballot unless you have to spoil the one you received. Some third-party organizations might send you an absentee ballot application that comes with your information already filled out in order to expedite the process for receiving your actual absentee ballot. An absentee ballot will only come from your state's elections office and never from any third-party organization. Due to the efforts of these third-party organizations, you might receive many absentee ballot applications in the mail, and this is okay as long as you only submit one back to your state's elections office. Attempting to submit several absentee ballot applications in order to receive more than one absentee ballot is illegal.
My absentee ballot didn't arrive, or was sent to the wrong address
After you request your absentee ballot, begin regularly checking your state or local election's office website for the status of your absentee ballot (if this feature is available). Being aware of the progress of your ballot is the first step to catching either of those two problems. It also is helpful to request your absentee ballot as soon as you are able to allow yourself the most time to fix any problems that occur. If it has been several weeks after your absentee ballot was marked as sent, contact your local elections office and see what your options are. They might insist that you wait, or they may cancel your old ballot and issue a new one. If your ballot was sent to the wrong address, you should take similar action if you are unable to retrieve your ballot.
Since absentee ballots can be returned by mail, many voters during the 2020 election wondered if their ballot required postage. The quick answer to this question is yes: you do need to affix proper postage to your absentee ballot when returning it by mail. However, twelve states currently have provisions regarding absentee ballot postage. Some states, like Hawaii, do not require absentee voters to pay postage, but this is not the case with most states (see the NCSL's table of the twelve states here). On the other hand, dropping your ballot off at a ballot drop box does not require any postage.
What if I change my mind?
Early voting is great because it allows voters the opportunity to vote outside of Election Day, often at a time that is better for them. But, if you vote early and change your mind before Election Day, can you change your vote? A lot of conflicting information has been spread about this topic, but the general answer is no: you cannot change your vote once it has been cast (particularly in regards to early voting). A few states do allow voters to cancel their ballots if they have not yet been processed, but this mainly is for absentee ballots.
Where do I go to vote?
If you are registered and eligible to vote, you can vote early at any open polling location in your county! There are typically much fewer precincts open for early voting than for Election Day, and it's very possible your normal precinct may not be used as an early voting site. The start and end dates for early voting also vary by state, so be sure to check your state's elections website to know when early voting begins. Additionally, all normal rules and regulations for in-person voting apply to early voting.
Unfortunately, as a voter, there is not much you can do about having to wait in a long line to vote. However, know that as long as you are in line by 7 PM on the day of the election you are attempting to vote in, you will be allowed to vote even though polls technically close at 7 PM. Most precincts will close the line at that time but they are required to vote all people who are currently standing in the line.
I didn't know which precinct I should report to
For in-state students: to find out which precinct you need to report to in order to vote, head over to My Voter Page and input your information accordingly (i.e. First initial, last name, county, and date of birth). There, you will see important information on how to access your polling location as well as other information like early voting locations.
For out-of-state students: to find out which precinct you need to report to in order to vote, head over to USA.gov to find your state's official election office website. From there, you will be able to determine your specific polling location by navigating through your state's election office website.
I had to cast a provisional ballot
There are several problems that might cause a person to vote provisionally, some of which include: incorrect or missing photo ID, mismatching information between voting records and ID, eligibility cannot be established, voting at the wrong location, or contested citizenship. Please visit our Provisional Voting page for more detailed information on voting provisionally and what you should do to cure your provisional ballot. When in doubt, contact your local elections office.
In general, to avoid having to cast a provisional ballot, be sure to double-check your voter registration before going to the polls. You can usually check your precinct information online through your state or local election office's website. Ensure that your photo ID is both unexpired and up to date with your correct name and address. If you have concerns about the validity of your primary photo ID, bring a backup. View the NCSL's comprehensive list of each state's photo ID requirements here.
I didn't know where to find voting information on campus
The VoterTech website is a good place to start! In addition, Georgia Tech has great resources on the Tech Vote website and you can subscribe to Tech Vote's newsletters here.
Runoff Election Eligibility
Runoff elections are held when no candidate wins the required majority of votes. Anyone who is registered to vote in Georgia can vote in federal, state, and local runoff elections. Check your voter status here. The voter registration deadline is the 5th Monday before the runoff election date. Early voting begins the 4th Monday before the runoff election date. For more information about runoff elections, contact your County Registrar's Office.