All you need to know heading into the May 21 primary

(Credit: Brittney Phan)

Gist

Georgia’s primary is only days away, and there’s a lot to unpack.

The May 21 primary will be the first time some Georgians will be voting in new districts for state and congressional candidates. They’ll also be voting in local races for sheriff, judges, school board or county commission members. Primary winners who have challengers will go on to compete in the Nov. 5 general election. Georgia is an open primary state, meaning voters can choose the party ballot they wish to vote for.

This year, Georgians who voted by absentee ballot in the primary could face challenges due to mail delivery delays.

What’s Happening

North Georgia and metro Atlanta are seeing significant mail delivery delays. The holdup, according to media reports, appears to be at the United States Postal Services’ new Regional Processing and Distribution Center in Palmetto. The problem has led to dangerous situations in which people are not getting critical medication. 

Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff recently grilled USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the delays. Ossoff told DeJoy during an April 16 hearing that on-time delivery rates were abysmal. He said 66% of outbound first-class mail had been delivered on time while 36% of inbound mail had been delivered on time in the past three months.

DeJoy blamed the problem on the difficulty in condensing operations at the facility.

With the approaching primary, state lawmakers are concerned mail delays could disrupt the election process.

Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, told State Affairs that Georgia voters are ready.

“Georgia voters are already registered,” he said. “They know how they like to vote. More than half of them vote early. About 5% vote absentee by mail, just in general, and then the rest are voting on election day. So we've been able to set up systems that are familiar with Georgia voters so that the percentage who might be worried about their absentee-by-mail ballots are relatively small.”

Why It Matters

Georgia emerged as one of the country’s most important political battleground states during the 2020 election. The Peach State will once again play a key role in deciding who wins the 2024 presidential election in November.

In the May 21 primary, Georgia voters will whittle down their choices for whom they'll send to Congress and to the state capitol next year.

Under a federal court-approved redistricting process last year, Georgia now has new congressional and state district electoral maps. Those maps created one majority Black seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, five new majority-Black districts in the state House and two in the state Senate. 
The redistricting resulted in new seats, intriguing matchups and former politicians returning to the fray.  You can see the newly drawn maps here.

What’s Next?

Here’s what you need to know to ensure a smooth voting process: 

To vote early.

Early voting is April 29 to May 17. Find your polling place here.

To vote absentee.

Here’s what you can do to avoid problems if you vote absentee:

  • Get your absentee ballot application done early. You can request an absentee ballot here. (The registration deadline for the May 21 primary was April 22.)
  • Track your application through Georgia BallotTrax. You must have a valid absentee request on file with your county board of elections to see your absentee ballot status in Georgia BallottTrax.
  • If you’ve been having mail delays, place your completed absentee ballot in an official drop box during advanced voting instead of using the United States Postal Service. Check your county voter registration and election office for drop box locations. And, yes, your absentee ballot counts. It is counted in the final tally, not just close races.
  • If you change your mind about voting absentee and decide to vote in person, take your absentee ballot to your local election office, where workers will void it.
  • If you need to contact your county election office, find that information here.

Update: This story has been updated with the mail-in ballot registration deadline for the May 21 primary.

Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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