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Georgia January 2021 runoff election voter guide

From where to vote, how to vote and election deadlines, we're answering your questions about the 2021 runoff election

MACON, Ga. — Election Day is Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 and we've put together a guide with everything you need to know before you head to the polls. 

As always, 13WMAZ is your go-to source for election information, so be sure to bookmark this story, as it will be updated with voter resources and coverages on the candidates as we get closer to the election.

Key Dates

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - According to the Georgia Secretary of State's office, this is the earliest date that election offices may begin mailing absentee ballots to voters for the Jan. 5 runoff election. 

All absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5 to be counted.

Friday, November 20, 2020 - Election officials in Georgia will certify results for races conducted in the state during the Nov. 3 General Election. This date is determined by Georgia state law. 

Monday, December 7, 2020 - The last day that Georgians can register to vote in the January runoff. You can register online through the Secretary of State's office website.

If you were not old enough to vote in the November election but will turn 18 by Jan. 5, you can register to vote.

Monday, December 14, 2020 - Early voting starts and lasts for 16 days. You can find times and locations here.

The Electoral College will also formally meet to cast their votes for president and vice president of the United States. This process was originally laid out in the United States Constitution and has been adjusted through two separate constitutional amendments. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 - The U.S. Senate runoff elections between Democrat Raphael Warnock and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler to complete Johnny Isakson's term. The runoff election for between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff will also take place. 

The winners will immediately take Georgia's seats in the U.S. Senate. The balance of power in the U.S. Senate is at stake, as the current split is 50-48, in favor of the Republican Party. 

Again, all absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5 to be counted.

Am I registered to vote?

If it's been a while since you've voted, and you're unsure about your voter registration status, if you are new to Georgia and need to register to vote here, or if you just want to check your status, the Georgia Secretary of State's My Voter Page can help you with all of those. If you have recently moved somewhere else in Georgia, you can also update your registration in that portal.

Can I register to vote online?

Yes. To use the Online Voter Registration System, you must have a valid driver’s license or ID card issued by the GA Department of Driver Services. 

If you do not have one, you will be asked to submit a paper application. Precinct cards will be mailed out by the county office after they have processed your application. 

The state says that can take 3-4 weeks, so if you're planning on submitting a paper application, you should do that as soon as possible.

Can I vote by absentee ballot?

You can apply for an absentee ballot right now, but they will not begin being mailed out until Nov. 18 at the earliest. Unlike some states, there is no specific excuse required in order to vote by absentee ballot in Georgia.

In order for a registered voter to request an absentee ballot, they must complete an absentee ballot application and return the application to their county registration office.

You can return applications by mail, fax, as an email attachment, or in person to your local county Board of Registrar's Office.

The state also launched an online absentee ballot application portal on the week of Aug. 31.

State officials say you should not wait to request an absentee ballot if you plan to vote with one.

Once you receive your absentee ballot, you can complete it and mail it back in or drop it off at one of your county's drop-box locations.

RELATED: Georgia to launch online portal for voters to request absentee ballots

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

If you are uncomfortable with using the state's online portal, or don't want to wait to apply for your absentee ballot, you can fill out a paper application.

The application is a PDF form, which may be filled out online before printing it out or may be printed out as a blank form to be filled out by hand.

Either way, you need to put the date of the upcoming election at the top of the form -- Jan. 5, 2021.

This would be followed by your full name in Box 1, followed by your permanent home address as listed on your voter registration in Box 2.

If you do not want your ballot sent to your permanent, home address, then the address where you would like your ballot sent would go into Box 3 -- otherwise, that box would be left blank.

Your date of birth would go into Box 4.

Box 5 is only used for primary elections. For the November General Election, it is left blank.

Place a current contact telephone number and email address into Box 6, in case there is a problem with your ballot application, so that county officials may contact you, if necessary.

Box 7 is where you sign and date your application.

If you are assisting someone with their application -- usually a disabled relative -- then your printed name, followed by your signature would go into Box 8.

Box 9 is used in the event if you are requesting a ballot on behalf of someone who is either physically disabled or temporarily living outside of the county. 

This sometimes happens with parents requesting applications for college students or relatives requesting applications on behalf of individuals temporarily residing overseas or other places where they cannot access the application.

In Box 10, an applicant may indicate if they match one of the described conditions, and would like to receive a mail ballot for the remainder of the current election cycle, including runoff elections, without making another application. 

This includes those who are 65 and older, physically disabled, and uniformed service members or their dependents -- or other US citizens -- living overseas.

How soon should I request an absentee ballot?

If you are planning on voting with an absentee ballot, you should request it as soon as possible.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the holiday season, political scientists and election officials expect to see a big increase in absentee-ballot voting. 

This has led political scientists to worry it will put a strain on county boards of elections, as well as the postal system. The USPS has already reportedly warned several states that mail-in ballot deadlines may be too tight to meet delivery standards. 

RELATED: Apply for an absentee ballot for the January 5 US Senate runoff right now

“The Postal Service strongly recommends that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to the election date,” a USPS spokesperson said in a statement.

USPS said voters should mail it a full week before the due date, to guarantee it’ll arrive on time. 

If you request your ballot late or forgot to mail it in with less than a week before Jan. 5, you can drop it off at your county's drop-box location.

When does early voting begin in Georgia?

Absentee ballots will begin being mailed out as early as Nov. 18, but you'll have to wait until Dec. 14 if you plan on voting in-person.

Where can I see a sample ballot?

You will need to sign into the My Voter Page portal to access a county-specific sample ballot. You can also contact your local elections office.

Where is my polling place?

If you have lost your precinct card, don't remember where your precinct is located, or your precinct has changed since the last time you voted, the My Voter Page portal will tell you the location of your polling place.

If you are planning on voting early, it generally takes place at your county board of elections office and not at the polling place listed on your general voter registration.