Election law change approved by feds

ALBANY, Ga. -- The U.S. Department of Justice has approved a Georgia law that will require elections offices around the state to provide access to electronic voting at least 45 days before an election day, elections officials say.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved House Bill 540, which, among other things, amends the Georgia elections law to allow for direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems to be used during in-person absentee voting.

But before the measure could be enacted, it first had to be approved by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to ensure compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said the law won't directly impact voters until the next election.

"Since early voting had already started when we got notice this week that it had passed through the DOJ, we can't implement it this election, but it will go into effect next year," Nickerson said.

Before passage of the new law and its approval by Justice, Georgia law only required the elections office to make paper absentee ballots available at least 45 days before an election. The Dougherty County office already allows in-person voting through the DRE's for 44 days prior to the election.

The revamped law also removes the requirement that reasons be given for absentee voting.