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An election inspector looks at an absentee ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP) An election inspector looks at an absentee ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP)

An election inspector looks at an absentee ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 30, 2021

Georgia voting law does not make it a crime to drop off grandma’s ballot

If Your Time is short

  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping elections bill into law in March. It includes various provisions about in-person and absentee voting.

  • One section of the bill states that it is a felony to take someone’s absentee ballot and deliver it or return it to election officials, unless you fall under a long list of exceptions.

  • The exceptions allow various relatives — including children, grandchildren and spouses — to return a ballot on behalf of their family members. 

Georgia’s newest election law has drawn a series of attacks on social media.

"#Georgia’s new anti-voting law makes it a JAIL-TIME CRIME to drop off grandma’s absentee ballot in a dropbox. #SB202," said a Facebook post written by Greg Palast, an investigative freelance reporter who has been published in Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera

Palast called SB 202 a "horror show" and made the same claim on Twitter about criminalizing the return of grandma’s ballot.

The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

So are grandchildren going to be hauled off in handcuffs to jail if they turn in grandma’s absentee ballot? In a word, no. 

What the Georgia law says about who can return absentee ballots

Palast posted a screenshot of section 47 of SB 202, a sweeping elections bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25.

The relevant portion of the law says that anyone who "accepts an absentee ballot from an elector for delivery or return to the board of registrars except as authorized by subsection (a) of Code Section 21-2-385 shall be guilty of a felony."

Some commenters on Palast’s social media posts noted that those exceptions in that pre-existing Georgia code do allow relatives to return ballots on behalf of a family member.

Code Section 21-2-385 says that an elector with an absentee ballot: "shall then personally mail or personally deliver same to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk, provided that mailing or delivery may be made by the elector's mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or an individual residing in the household of such elector." 

So that means a long list of relatives can legally return a completed ballot on behalf of an elector — including a grandchild for their grandparent. (The section also states that caregivers of disabled electors can mail or deliver completed ballots as can jail employees on behalf of inmates.)

Featured Fact-check

Keith Williams, general counsel to House Speaker David Ralston, confirmed that under SB 202 someone can still drop off their own grandma’s absentee ballot in a drop box, mailbox or post office. The law does extend the ban on people who are not relatives or roommates from dropping off someone’s absentee ballot to include drop boxes (unless they fall under other exceptions). In that pre-existing Georgia code, there was no mention of drop boxes. In 2020 drop boxes were allowed under an emergency rule due to the pandemic.

Another Georgia law already made unlawful possession of ballots a felony, but SB 202 also makes it clear that unlawful delivery of completed ballots is a felony.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office also confirmed that someone’s grandchild can still put their absentee ballot in the mail or a drop box under the new law.

We emailed Palast and told him that SB 202 and the pre-existing code allows someone to still drop off their own grandma’s absentee ballot or the ballot of another relative. We asked Palast if he saw something else in SB 202 that indicates you can’t submit your own grandmother’s ballot, and did not hear back.

Our ruling 

A Facebook post stated that Georgia’s new voting law SB 202 "makes it a JAIL-TIME CRIME to drop off grandma’s absentee ballot in a dropbox."

That’s not the case. Under the new law, a long list of relatives can still legally return a completed ballot on behalf of an elector — including a grandchild for their grandparent. 

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: The facts about Georgia’s ban on food, water giveaways to voters

RELATED: James Clyburn misspeaks in saying 43 states have passed voting restrictions


 

Our Sources

Facebook post, March 29, 2021

Georgia SB202, 2021

Georgia Public Radio, What Does Georgia's New Voting Law SB 202 Do? March 26, 2021

Georgia Public Radio reporter Stephen Fowler, Tweet, March 27, 2021

Georgia Public Radio, Georgia Elections Board Allows Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes For June 9 Primary, April 15, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp; March 25, 2021

U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund, Rise, Inc vs Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, March 25, 2021

U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP et al vs Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, March 28, 2021

Email interview, Ari Schaffer, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spokesperson, March 30, 2021

Email interview, Keith Williams, General Counsel – office of the Speaker of the House, March 30, 2021

Email interview, Charles S. Bullock, University of Georgia political science professor, March 30, 2021

 

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Georgia voting law does not make it a crime to drop off grandma’s ballot

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