It has become the most controversial piece of the Georgia voting process — how signatures are verified for absentee ballots. 

Steps are being taken in Muscogee County to make sure the process in transparent and can accommodate observers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bottom line, what was a back-office process is now moved front and center. It has been moved to the Office of Elections and Registrations lobby.

And there is a reason. 

“A little different from normal processing of absentee ballots,” said Muscogee County Director of Elections and Registrations Nancy Boren. “We moved the process out to the lobby where people can observe if they chose to come to observe the process.” 

Here’s how it works: 

Employees verify the signature on the back of the absentee envelopes. The compare the electronic signature one of three ways.

— Electronic signature on the Department of Driver Services database. 

— The voter signature database. 

— Or the original voter registration card. 

In the past no one has asked to observe this process. Now it is being done with observers.  

“The observer can watch the process,” Boren said. “They are not allowed to speak to the employees, talk to the employees or ask questions, but they can ask questions of elections officials as they pass through.” 

Once the ballot is verified … 

“The ballots placed in the green bin. It will be placed in the ballot cue for us to begin early counting when we start that process on December 22nd.” 

Statewide more than a million absentee ballots have been requested. In Muscogee County, that number is 22,000 and climbing every day.