The May 24 primary is nearing, and the ramifications of Tuesday's vote will shape the state’s political playing field for the critical November midterm, where control of the governor’s office and potentially the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance.
This year will be the first major statewide election since 2020, which was the most well-attended vote in the state’s history. And if early voting is any indication, this year's election could see even more turnout.
Through Wednesday, May 19, over 565,000 people had early voted in Georgia, according to the Secretary of State's office — a 153% increase from the same point in the early voting period in the 2018 primary election and a 189% increase in the same point in the early voting period in the 2020 primary election.
Early voting ends Friday. After that, voters will have to cast ballots on Election Day or by returning a completed absentee ballot. The deadline to request absentee ballots has passed.
Polling places around the state will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. If voters are in line by 7 p.m., they can stay until they cast their ballot.
Unlike early voting, in-person voting on Election Day must be done at an assigned polling place. Voters can find their polling place at mvp.sos.ga.gov.
Check your registration status: Secretary of State's MyVoterPage
Because of Georgia’s open primary rules, voters of any party affiliation are allowed to take whatever ballot they want. Democrats can vote on the Republican ballot and vice versa. However, if a race goes to a runoff, voters will only be able to vote on the runoff races on the ballot they took originally.
A few things are prohibited at the polls. Under Georgia law, it is illegal to carry firearms within 150 feet of a polling place, or, if a line extends out the door of the polling place, within 150 feet of the end of the line.
Bring a state ID to vote
Those planning to cast an in-person ballot must present a photo ID at the polling place.
Valid forms of identification include a Georgia driver’s license — even if it is expired — a passport, military photo ID, an ID from any federal or state body of government, a government employee photo ID, or tribal photo ID.
Voters cannot wear clothing promoting any political candidates or political slogans, including facemasks.
Voters who show up to polling places but do not meet all the requirements can request a provisional ballot. Provisional voters must present a photo ID to the county registrar's office within three days of the election to have their ballots counted.
How to get a provisional ballot
If a voter is told by a poll worker their eligibility cannot be determined, the voter has a right to request a provisional ballot.
If a voter shows up to the wrong precinct, they can either go to the correct precinct or, if it is after 5 p.m., cast a provisional ballot at the incorrect precinct.
Any votes cast by a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct will not be counted unless it is cast between 5 p.m and 7 p.m. Otherwise, you'll be instructed to go to the correct precinct.
How to return an absentee ballot
Georgia's 2021 voting reforms, widely known as SB 202, altered the time to request absentee ballots. The request period opened March 7 and closed May 13.
There’s no way to request an absentee ballot at this point, but for those who have yet to return their absentee ballot, there are a couple of options. Mail, at this point, is risky. Ballots won't be accepted after polls close on election day.
Voters can also turn in the completed ballot to the Voter Registration Office, located at 1117 Eisenhower Dr, Suite E before 7 p.m. on election day.
If a voter decides they'd rather vote in person instead of casting their not-yet-returned absentee ballot, they must bring the absentee ballot to the polls and have an elections official spoil it before casting an in-person ballot.
Voters can check the status of absentee ballots at mvp.sos.ga.gov. If a voter has mailed a completed ballot, but it has not yet been accepted, voters can appear in person to cancel the ballot and cast their vote in person on Election Day.
Can I still use ballot drop boxes?
Absentee ballot drop boxes can no longer be utilized on election day.
The drop boxes were officially codified by 2021's SB 202 elections bill, but it also restricted their use to early voting, which ends Friday.
The drop boxes were originally an emergency measure put into place in 2020 for those who didn’t want to risk exposure to COVID by voting in person or risk their ballot arriving late in the mail.
Previously, the boxes were required to be on government property with 24/7 camera surveillance. They never closed, and voters could drop off ballots at any time.
Will Peebles is the enterprise reporter for Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @willpeeblessmn on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia 2022 primary and nonpartisan election: Here's how to vote