Millions of Georgia voters were affected by sweeping changes to state election laws enacted by lawmakers last year. Prior to these enactments, ballot boxes were available across all major counties and were open seven days a week. Now, access has been restricted in counties where they are used most - counties that also have higher numbers of Democrat voters and voters of color. An analysis by NPR, WABE, and Georgia Public Broadcasting compiled drop box usage data and reviewed thousands of voter forms to analyze the actual impact of these recent changes.
In addition to the affected counties having prominent POC populations, travel time to ballot boxes and the number of ballot boxes total were important variables changed by last year’s laws. Specifically, the NPR analysis found:
More than half of the approximately 550,000 voters who cast their ballot using a drop box in the 2020 general election lived in four metro Atlanta counties (Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett), where about half of the voters are POC.
Under the new law, the number of drop boxes in these four counties decreased from 107 to 25.
Almost a quarter of the state’s population (1.9 million people) have seen their travel time to a dropbox increase since 2020.
More than 90% of these voters live in strongly Democratic cities or suburbs, which are also home to most of the state's minority voters.
Widely accessible ballot boxes have been common for years in West Coast states, and the COVID-19 pandemic led to their increased availability in Georgia for the first time in 2020. The new law (Senate Bill 202) requires all 159 counties in Georgia to have at least one box, but no more than one box per 100,000 voters. Ballot boxes used to be available outdoors 24/7, but will now be kept inside with limited hours (typically 9 AM - 5 PM). This lack of accessibility will be problematic for those who work 9-5 jobs or require time flexibility for health or family related reasons. Furthermore, in a state as politically divided as Georgia, with an established history of discriminatory voting practices, even seemingly ‘small’ changes will break down voter trust and may even sway outcomes. What can we do? If you are a voter in Georgia - particularly a voter of color in one of the affected metropolitan areas - plan ahead. Find your closest ballot box under the new law and make a plan for getting your vote in. It’s never too early to get all the information you need and make sure your voice is heard in this politically rich time. Every vote is needed and every vote counts.