As someone who has served on the panel that does ballot review, I want to share some information with you. You want your absentee ballot to be counted, and you can fill it out in a manner that makes that more likely.
The purpose of the review panel is to adjudicate votes that are not clearly marked, so that they can be counted the way the voter intended. If there are stray marks on the ballot or if the oval is not filled in completely, we make the decision as to how that vote should be counted. One republican, one democrat, and one election board employee sit on the panel.
Here’s the thing: when you fill in the oval to write in a candidate for any race, the machine that counts votes kicks that ballot out for review by the panel. If the voter has written in the name of a legitimate write in candidate, then that vote gets counted. In order for that to happen, the candidate has to have filed paperwork and announced their intention to run as a write-in candidate. A good example of this is Miranda Wicker for the Cherokee County school board seat in district one.
However, if you decide to make a statement by writing in a family member or Mickey Mouse or even somebody you think would be good in that position, the review panel has to look at that vote and click it as invalid. This takes a lot of time and effort by the volunteer panel, and frankly, it increases the chances of your ballot being mishandled. Nobody is amused. You don’t want your ballot kicked out of the machine and decided by a panel.
A far better option is to vote for nobody in that race and just leave it blank. That way, the machine tabulates your choices, and the panel has time to concentrate on ballots with real issues.
Another thing to remember is to vote for only one candidate in each race. You would be surprised at how many people voted for more than one candidate in some races. This cancels your vote in that race.
Thanks to Kathy Downey, an Indivisible GA-11 member, for authoring this timely and important information.