Georgia Tech junior Alex Ames said the state’s new election law got some of her college friends in trouble when their mail-in ballots didn’t arrive in time to be counted for the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Ames was among a group of college students and a coalition of suffrage organizations imploring local poll officials to expand access to the ballot box in the Dec. 6 US Senate runoff, which is in a truncated window coinciding with the Final exams and the holiday break overlaps.

The Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is another example of how the state’s electoral law overhaul is changing in 2021 how elections work. The November 8 midterm election saw record early voter turnout for a midterm election in Georgia, and turnout for voters under 30 nationwide was the second-highest for a midterm election in at least three decades.

Ames said college students and other young adults are full of voting energy, despite some of the barriers that are now in place that make voting harder.

As a result of Georgias Senate Bill 202 Voting Actthe window for applying for and returning mail-in ballots has been shortened and the schedule has been compressed from nine weeks to four weeks after Election Day, reducing opportunities for early voting.

The Senate runoff, which will begin Nov. 28 in most locations, will not feature Saturday’s early voting because it comes just after Thanksgiving and a state holiday once dedicated to honor the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee .

Ames, an organizer with the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, along with other activists, recommended Monday that county election officials offer an early polling day on Sunday, extend weekday hours and open polling stations on college campuses for the runoff. She said she had friends in Oregon who mailed their Georgia ballots back as soon as they were mailed them, but they didn’t arrive in time to be counted.

“I have a friend in Washington DC who had to pay for a flight home on Election Day because he didn’t show up when he asked for his ballot,” Ames said during a news conference hosted by Progress Georgia and Georgia Organizers for Active at Georgia Tech was hosted transformation. “I have friends at Georgia Tech who had to miss a class one day to go home to vote in their district.

“Voting by mail is an important option that should be available to every voter to cast their ballot, especially since this runoff coincides with final exams, the end of the semester and the holidays,” Ames said.

According to the Secretary of State, more than 244,000 absentee ballots were cast for this year’s midterm, up from 223,000 at the 2018 halfway point Post and mailbox have been delivered.

Gabriel Sterling, the Secretary of State’s chief operating officer, said the reduced expiration time to four weeks was the standard in Georgia for many years, until a federal lawsuit changed it to nine weeks to give more time for foreign and military elections. Georgian officials had a successful half-time due to changes in SB 202, court rulings and the state elections board, he said.

“If you recall, Paul Coverdell was elected in a four-week runoff and Saxby (Chambliss) had a four-week runoff,” Sterling said of the former US senators at a Nov. 9 news conference. “The state has historically conducted four-week runoff elections, with early voting, no excused absences, and voting on Election Day. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to do this. It’s not that unique.”

As Republican Donald Trump lost several key battleground states like Georgia, unsubstantiated claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election lingered through this year’s midterm. This prompted a wave of misinformation and major changes to state election laws that Republicans claim have restored integrity and Democrats and civil rights organizations claim have disenfranchised black voters, young people and other marginalized groups with new restrictions.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said while local poll workers prepare for a quick turnaround for the runoff, the midterm election proves they can perform at the highest level.

Across the state, there was an average wait of two minutes for the 1.4 million voters who came out on Election Day. The new electoral law requires waiting times of less than an hour for local elections. And a controversial provision made it illegal to offer water or other refreshments to voters waiting in line.

The Secretary of State says there were no major issues reported on a new polling SMS line to report threats against employees and voters or other issues that surfaced in Georgia’s recent election.

At a meeting of the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Jan. 24, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the integrity of Georgia’s elections and his refusal to contest the 2020 election results. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

“I read online that there was a person who wanted to test our line heating law, so he loaded his car with cases and cases of bottled water to line up the engines,” Raffensperger said at a news conference at the state capitol this month . “He started driving around and his problem was that he couldn’t find any lines. And he even said in the article: “The system is running so smoothly today that nobody was queuing in the sun.”

“We owe that to the districts and the voters,” said Raffensperger. “Voters took advantage of the pre-election day vote in record time. They broke records for both absentee letters and early in-person votes at halftime.”

The relatively smooth elections in Georgia were a similar experience for the majority of voters across the country, with proxies and state election administrators reporting few, if any, major problems.

Georgia’s early voting tally of 2.5 million ballots cast by Nov. 4 was 20% higher than the previous record set in the 2018 midterm elections, prompting state officials to predict that an additional 2 million Georgians could turn out to vote on election day.

Progressive suffrage groups point out that the new law, which specifically allows Georgia voters to contest eligibility an unlimited number of times, was a way to encourage situations like 65,000 voters had their election Registration status questioned in the 8 Nov halftime.

Raffensperger has said he would like the state Legislature to revise this section of the law to prevent the large-scale mass appeals seen in Gwinnett County, where the local election committee rejected a majority of 37,000 appeals. In Gwinnett, 10 poll workers combed through challenges and found many eligible college students, seniors, and disabled voters.

Upon arriving at the ballot box, some Georgia voters were told that their eligibility had been officially challenged, forcing them to cast a provisional ballot. The new election rules also prohibited the counting of provisional ballots if a voter turned up in the wrong constituency before 5 p.m. on election day.

The number of provisional ballots cast this year is just over 10,000, up from over 12,000 at the midpoint of 2018.

A report by the International Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says that while voter challenges can be a way to troubleshoot and correct inaccuracies in the electoral roll, such mass challenges in states like Georgia and Michigan have raised concerns about possible voter suppression.

The Poland-based organization set up observation teams for the midterm elections in several states, including Georgia.

“The November 8 congressional elections were conducted competitively and professionally, with active voter participation,” the report said. “However, well-known efforts to erode voter confidence in the electoral process by groundlessly questioning its integrity can lead to systemic challenges. The campaign was free, but highly polarized and marred by harsh rhetoric. In many cases, partisan redistribution resulted in uncompetitive constituencies.”