Voters headed to Tuesday’s special elections in Cobb County and South Georgia aren’t likely to see much change in the way they vote despite Georgia’s new election reform law.

Tuesday’s special election runoff for two state House seats will be the first time the four-month-old Georgia Election Integrity Act, originally known as Senate Bill 202, will be in effect.

Republican Devan Seabaugh is running against Democrat Priscilla G. Smith in Cobb County to fill House District seat 34 vacated by Republican Rep. Bert Reeves. In South Georgia, Republicans Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp go head to head for House District 156. That seat became vacant in April after Republican Greg Morris resigned to join the Georgia Department of Transportations’ State Transportation Board. The district includes areas in and around Vidalia.

In Cobb, “Voters won’t see any remarkable difference in the way they vote,” Elections Director Janine Eveler told Atlanta Civic Circle. “There weren’t too many changes [in the new law] on Election Day.” 

The biggest changes in the new law involve early voting, drop boxes, and absentee ballots. The new law requires at least eight hours of early voting per day in every county and added a Saturday. Some rural counties weren’t offering that many hours before, one election expert noted.

It adds drop boxes, which weren’t available other than in the emergency rule during the pandemic. They can only be used during the early voting periods. Drop boxes will not be available on Tuesday.

As for absentee ballots, verification is now based on identification numbers, mostly driver’s licenses, rather than signatures.

Election changes in the new law have led to controversy and nine lawsuits so far, including one by the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee last week rejected attempts by one group to stop parts of the new law. The group, Coalition for Good Governance, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition working to improve transparency in government and elections.

Cobb’s District 34 has 42,000 voters. So far, 3,511 have voted early or absentee in Cobb, Eveler said. It’s unclear how many will vote on Tuesday.

For those voters with absentee ballots that haven’t been turned in yet, there are two choices:

  • They can take their ballot to their assigned precinct, have it canceled and then cast a ballot in person (if they don’t have it with them, they can sign an affidavit to cancel it and vote in person)
  • They can drop it off at their county elections office before 7 p.m.

See Judge Boulee’s 11-page, July 7 decision here.

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