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VERIFY: Where's the white envelope for absentee ballots?

Instructions say to seal the absentee ballot in a white envelope. Instead, voters received a white piece of paper.

MACON, Ga. — County election board officials say they've received dozens of calls a day about a slight change in absentee ballots. Voters didn't receive the white envelope the absentee ballot instructions mention.

Nancy Copeland is one of those voters who has questions on the change. 

Copeland says she and her husband always vote in person and early. However, because of COVID-19 concerns, they each decided to fill out an absentee ballot.

"As I was preparing to fill out the ballot, I was reading the instructions and found out I was missing a white envelope that it said to put the completed ballot in," Copeland said. 

The instructions clearly state to seal the ballot into a white envelope. Instead, Copeland found a white piece of paper that looks like this. 

Credit: Nancy Copeland

So we set out to verify if this a mistake by the Secretary of State's Office. 

Before now, each county would take care of the absentee ballots--from processing the application to mailing out the packet to the voter. 

"When we mail out an absentee ballot, it has a larger yellow outer envelope and a small inner envelope," Holland said. Typically, absentee ballot voters would receive that small white envelope to keep the voter's information private. 

Due to the influx of absentee ballots coming in, the Secretary of State's office sent out applications to all registered Georgia voters and contracted with a vendor to send out the ballots. This takes some of the work off local Board Elections offices. 

In a statement to 13WMAZ from the Secretary of State's Office, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs says "the decision to use a privacy sleeve rather than an envelope was a design decision made by the vendor in order to save time and money."

It saves time, so when the county board of elections begin to count them, they don't have to rip through two envelopes to get to the ballot. 

"Most of the trouble is coming from the fact that the instruction sheet that's coming with the package that tells the voter what to do, how to vote the ballot, what to do with it when you're done, was not updated to say that it was going to be a sleeve and not an envelope," Holland said. 

So we verified that it was not a mistake by the Secretary of State's office to send out a privacy sleeve, instead of an envelope. However, those instructions weren't updated with the ballot. 

The Secretary of State's office confirmed they are updating the instructions with the vendor.

The office says voters simply have to fold the security sleeve over your voted ballot and insert them both into the return envelope. Their statement added that this minor change will not affect a person's vote being counted.

Copeland says she just wants her vote to be confidential. Holland says the new sleeves still keep the ballot information covered.

"Whether it's an envelope or a sleeve, its main purpose is so the ballot cannot be seen through the envelope," Holland said. 

Election officials say if you don't want to send back your absentee ballot by mail, you can just drop it off at your local board of elections where a secure box is waiting. 

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FACTS NOT FEAR | At 13WMAZ, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the coronavirus. To see our full coverage, visit our site section here: www.13wmaz.com/Coronavirus.

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