New election rule set for Georgia absentee ballot counting

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – State election officials have approved a new rule that changes the standard for how much an oval needs to be filled in on an absentee ballot to count as a vote.

If you plan on voting absentee this November, election board members urge you to make sure you’re filling in the bubble clearly for the candidate of your choice.

Under a new rule passed by the Georgia State Election Board in a 3-1 vote, the threshold settings on voting scanners will be changed from the original setting of 12 percent to 10 percent. This means ovals that are at least 20 percent filled in will always be counted and ovals filled less than 10 percent won’t be.

“I voted against that because I was concerned that there will be some votes where the voter’s intent is clear that it may not be counted,” board member, David Worley, said. “The absentee ballots are scanned through and if only 12-25 percent of the oval is filled in those will be kicked out of the machine and humans will look at those and decide whether the voter intended to cast a vote.”

It’s called a manual panel review. This is the first year these scanners are being used in the state. Board member Matt Mashburn voted for the change and said there needs to be a standard so votes are clearly counted.

“What we’re trying to do is get the finetuning right so that you’re not overwhelming the ballot review panel with 99 percent of what they’re looking at is clearly a vote and the computer said it was a vote,” Mashburn said.

He said oftentimes, absentee ballots can be filled with stray marks. Someone will then have to determine who the voter is voting for.

“The risks there is if you substitute your opinion for the voter well maybe you just cast a vote for that person, that person was voting against. At some point, the voter has to take responsibility and we shouldn’t guess,” Mashburn said.

Both sides have advice for those who plan to vote absentee this November: fill in the oval completely. Board members say do not use a checkmark or an “X” to fill in the bubble.

The target start date for sending out absentee ballots is Sept. 18.

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