Columbus, GA – In response to the fact that both applications for mail-in ballots and the ballots themselves will require postage, Teresa Tomlinson, two-term mayor of Columbus and candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia, commented: “Voting provides access to civic power and it must be free. In this public health crisis, people should not have to choose between standing in line at the post office, or standing in line to vote. Anything we do that assigns a cost to voting–either in terms of money or health–suppresses voter participation and that is unacceptable.”
Ratified in 1964, the 24th Amendment banned the taxation of individuals at polling places, which was common practice to suppress the vote. The removal of the poll tax from all voting systems came out of the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement and it made great strides in protecting our fundamental right to vote.
With the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, Georgians will be voting by mail in record numbers. Indeed, recognizing that voters should not be forced to choose between their safety and their fundamental right to vote, state election officials plan to eliminate the need to travel to an in-person polling place by sending absentee ballot applications to voters directly. However, officials have not adapted our traditional system for this public health crisis, keeping in place the requirement that the voter cover postage on the ballot.
Requiring postage on a mail-in ballot amounts to a modern-day poll tax. If state election officials truly want to facilitate voting for Georgians – and protect lives and public health – during this unprecedented crisis, the state must cover postage on mail-in applications and ballots.