How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in Atlanta This November

Here’s everything you need to know about voting in the midterms in Atlanta.

Every vote matters. According to the nonpartisan organization Fair Vote—a great voting resource to familiarize yourself with—voter turnout during midterm elections has been considerably lower than in presidential elections over the last twenty years, and apart from the 2018 midterms, less than 42% of voters nationwide have shown up at the polls for each midterm election since 2002. With so many important local, state, and national matters on the ballot, we simply cannot afford to wait until 2024 to put one of our most precious rights to use.

Now, are you all riled up and ready to vote? Good, because that’s the easy part. The tough part is figuring out how you’re going to ensure that your vote counts, and that encompasses everything from double-checking your voter registration to studying up on what’s actually on the ballot. To help make the voting process as painless for you as possible, we’ve put together a quick guide that will tell you everything that you need to know about the midterm election in Atlanta this November. Get informed and go make your voice heard.

How to register to vote in Georgia

Before you do anything election-related, the first thing you want to do is check your voter registration status, and the easiest way to do that—regardless of which county you live in — is by accessing the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. When you access that portal, there will be two buttons, front and center—one with the question “Am I Registered to Vote?” on the left and another with the statement “I Want to Register to Vote” on the right. Regardless of whether you have voted in past elections or you do not have any recollection of ever registering to vote, it is always worth hitting the “Am I Registered to Vote?” button on the left first. That button will take you to a page that will ask for your first initial, last name, county of residence, and date of birth, and after entering your information, you will either be transported to your current voter registration or be alerted that your registration was not location—meaning that you do indeed need to register. By taking that extra step and checking one’s registration status first, returning voters can double-check that their information is up-to-date, and new voters can ensure that there aren’t any existing and/or conflicting registrations attached to their identity.

Once you have confirmed that you do in fact need to register to vote, you can return to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system and click the button that says “I Want to Register to Vote.” From there, you will see two options: to register online using a valid Georgia driver’s license/ID or to register by printing and mailing the application. Choose whichever method you prefer, and follow the steps provided. Within two to four weeks, you should receive an official confirmation that your registration was successful, and if you don’t, you can contact your local county registration office for more information.

In Fulton County, you can also register to vote in person at the Fulton County Government Center, the South Fulton Service Center, and the North Fulton Service Center. In DeKalb County, you can register in person at the Voter Registration & Elections office, and you can also choose to register when you renew or apply for a driver’s license. If you don’t live in the city of Atlanta or either of the aforementioned counties, you can find more information at your county’s Registration & Elections website.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Georgia

If you wish to vote in the November general election, the final day to register to vote is Tuesday, October 11. That means that you must complete the online registration, complete the in-person registration, or have your mail-in registration postmarked by October 11. Just so you know, the registration deadline is also the last day to make any changes or corrections to your registration ahead of the midterm election on November 8.

What’s on the ballot: key races and issues

Knowing what’s on your ballot is key because depending on where you live, your ballot may not necessarily look like your best friend’s. To receive the most accurate representation of what will be on your ballot, all you have to do is return to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system and access your voter registration. Upon doing so, you will see an option to view a sample ballot, which will show all of the state, county, and city races and referendums that you will be able to vote on.

With that said, there are some key races that every voter in Georgia will have an opportunity to weigh in on. One of the most pressing state races is the gubernatorial rematch between Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and the Democrat challenger Stacey Abrams—which also includes candidates such as Shane Hazel (Libertarian), Elbert Bartell (Independent), and President Boddie (Independent). Another statewide race that has gained national media attention is the US Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker—which also includes candidates such Chase Oliver (Libertarian) and George Litchfield (Conservative Party).

Elsewhere on the ballot, voters throughout the state can expect to vote on races for the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Insurance, the State School Superintendent, and the Commissioner of Labor.

Can I vote early?

Yes, early voting begins on Monday, October 17, and it will conclude on Friday, November 4. A full list of early voting locations in Fulton County is available here, and a full list of early voting locations in DeKalb County is available here. Some counties offer early voting on Sundays, so for the most accurate info, always check back with your county’s Registration & Elections website.

How to find your polling place

To find your polling place, access your voter registration via the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. After you enter your information, you will see exactly which polling place that you should go to on Election Day on November 8. Once you find your polling place, make sure that you bring your Georgia driver’s license or ID. It will be used to verify your identity and allow you to vote, and if you cannot present a license or ID, you will have to cast a provisional ballot instead.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, and you can vote by mail without an excuse. If you choose to vote by mail, you must request your absentee ballot from the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system by Friday, October 28. To cast an eligible mail-in vote, your ballot must be received by your county’s Department of Registration & Elections no later than the close of polls on Election Day. If you don’t think that your ballot will arrive at your county registrar by 7 pm on November 8, check your county’s elections website to see if you are allowed to deliver your ballot in person at the Registration & Elections office instead. If that isn’t an option, go vote in person and make sure you bring your absentee ballot with you. A poll manager or poll worker can cancel that ballot and allow you to vote on the touch screen as long as you return the canceled absentee ballot in person.

How to find ballot drop boxes (if applicable)

If you requested an absentee ballot and no longer want to mail it in, you can drop it off in a county-approved ballot drop box. However, one of the major changes to Georgia’s voting system now prohibits the use of ballot drop boxes after the early voting period from October 17 to November 4. Fulton County requires that you submit your ballot to one of its seven drop box locations during the early voting period from October 17 to November 4, while DeKalb County permits ballots to be submitted to drop boxes

How to volunteer as a poll worker

In addition to voting in an upcoming election, you can make an invaluable impact on your community by serving as a poll worker, and even though it is some of the most rewarding volunteer work that you can sign up for, you’ll still be compensated for your time and dedication. Atlantans who are interested in becoming poll workers for future elections can apply via the official Fulton County or DeKalb County websites. Unfortunately, the deadline to apply to be a Fulton County poll worker during the 2022 midterms has already passed, and while the DeKalb County poll worker application is still open, keep in mind that positions are filled on an as-needed basis. With that said, you may not be able to work as a poll worker in November, but at least you’ll have a head start on future elections—including any potential runoffs. For those living in surrounding counties, your county’s Registration & Elections website should also have information about becoming a poll worker.

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Joshua Robinson is a former poll worker and current Atlanta-based Thrillist contributor who hopes everyone exercises their right to vote this November.