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Never mind: Georgians can still email their absentee ballot applications

Email is once again an acceptable way for voters in Atlanta to request an absentee ballot.

It wasn't for two days. On Monday and through most of Tuesday, election officials in Fulton County, which takes in much of the city, rejected emailed applications to vote by mail in next month's primary runoffs — telling people they needed to apply by letter, fax or in person. The county reversed itself by the end of the day, after the state warned it was flatly violating Georgia law.

The flare-up, although limited and short lived, was still a fresh reminder of the long and multifaceted history of voter suppression in the Deep South's biggest state — which is under especially vigilant watch this year, when it's become both a presidential and two-seat Senate battleground.

Before the state's chaotic primary last month, Fulton election officials struggled to keep up with the flood of emailed requests from state's most populous county. Many residents didn't receive their absentee ballot in time, forcing them to wait for several hours in line at polling places across Atlanta and risk Covid-19 exposure to vote in person.

While lifting the short moratorium on emailed requests, the county is telling voters to help make the application process smoother: Send only one ballot request in each email, make sure it's legible and send either a PDF or JPG file smaller than 5 megabytes.

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To offer voters another option, the state says it will create a website for absentee ballot requests for the November election.

It's unclear how many such requests from Fulton voters were overlooked or not processed in time for the primary. Despite these problems, more than 93,000 voters cast ballots by mail — the third most in the state behind two other Metro Atlanta counties, Cobb and DeKalb.

The voting rights group Fair Fight Action called on Republcian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to make clear that all counties have to process emailed requests. He "must step up and immediately do his job to ensure that Georgians do not have different access to democracy depending on their ZIP code," said CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo.

There's no evidence that any other county has done what Fulton did, Raffensperger's office said.

Overall, 49 percent of the 2.4 million votes cast in the primary were by mail — eight times the share in most recent elections, after Raffensperger infuriated many of his fellow GOP officeholders by sending applications to every registered voter in the state.

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