Absentee ballots for the upcoming presidential election are being sent this week to residents, many of whom want to avoid crowded polling places amid the pandemic.

Carroll County Elections Supervisor Greg Rigby told the Times-Georgian last week that he would be ready to start sending absentee ballots on Friday to residents who requested them. Over in Douglas County, Elections Supervisor Milton Kidd said he would begin sending absentee ballots to county residents on Sept. 15.

Under Georgia law, absentee ballots must be mailed by county elections supervisors between 45 and 49 days prior to Election Day, which is Nov. 3.

More voters than ever are relying on absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic so they can avoid the potential health risk of human contact at polling places. Since 2005, Georgia law has allowed any registered voter to request such a ballot without having to provide an excuse.

Voters can also return their ballots without relying on the U.S. Postal Service. Many counties, including Douglas and Carroll, have set up drop boxes where voters can deposit their ballots until polls close on Election Day. Kidd said there are five boxes within Douglas County for voters to deposit their ballots.

Elections officials have until Nov. 20 to certify the results, but if the state extends the deadline for residents to return their absentee ballots to a later date, this could give supervisors less time to finish counting ballots.

Additionally, voters might have less time to correct mistakes on their absentee ballots, such as missing or mismatched signatures and not providing required information.

Voters can request absentee ballots through a website created by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov.

To request a ballot, voters can enter their first and last name, date of birth and state identification or driver’s license number, along with the county in which they are registered. This information matches what is on the voter’s registration record.

A signature for the online application is not necessary but is required if a person chooses to fill out a paper form.

Residents can also request a ballot by email, in person, or by mail through the county’s election office, 423 College St. The deadline to request a ballot is Oct. 30. Douglas County’s elections office is located at 8700 Hospital Drive.

A record 1.1 million voters returned absentee ballots for the June 9 primary, according to the Georgia Public Broadcasting website, and more are expected for the Nov. 3 election.

The U.S. Post Office — and Carroll County’s elections supervisor — recommend mailing the absentee ballot back no later than one calendar week before the election to allow enough time for it to be delivered and received by the county elections office. That means voters should return their ballots before Oct. 27.

Residents can also drop their ballot office at a secure drop box or at the county elections office, but not their polling place.

Voters who would rather cast their ballots in person can do so when early voting starts on Oct. 12. There will be three weeks of advanced voting, with at least one mandatory Saturday.

After the ballot has been returned, voters can use the state’s My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov to check the status of their ballots. Anyone who needs to register to vote in the upcoming election can also use this website.