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Georgia sued over law that could disenfranchise thousands of voters in 2020

Georgia’s absentee ballot law ‘will have a disproportionate effect on minority voters,’ according to the lawsuit.

By Dan Desai Martin - November 07, 2019
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Election Day in Georgia
People cast their ballots at National Hills Baptist Church on election day in Augusta, Ga., Tuesday morning November 6, 2018.

Georgia, a state with a recent history of voter suppression, is being sued over a new absentee ballot law that plaintiffs argue could disenfranchise thousands of Georgia voters.

The law is being challenged with a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In the 2018 election, thousands of Georgia voters had their absentee ballot thrown out for “technical reasons wholly unrelated to the voter’s qualifications,” according to the suit.

“The cause of this disenfranchisement is Georgia’s standardless procedure for notifying absentee voters that their signatures are either missing or inconsistent,” the suit says, adding that the law “disproportionately impacts African-American and other minority voters.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia passed the absentee ballot law in March 2019 to deal with the issues around rejecting mail-in ballots. The lawsuit filed Wednesday claims this revised absentee voting law does not “remedy the flaws in Georgia’s absentee ballot regime and will not end the unconstitutional disenfranchisement of voters.”

The lawsuit argues that the new absentee ballot law failed to create a standardized method for election officials to deal with rejected mail-in ballots. According to the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law, if election officials want to reject a mail-in ballot, the voter must be notified and has until three days after the election to contact election officials and “cure” the issue.

However, the lawsuit claims that under this new law, each of Georgia’s 159 counties is tasked with “establishing its own deadline and method.” As a result, the lawsuit claims that some counties could “send letters by first-class mail, while others call or email voters.” As a result, the lawsuit warns that some voters could fail to be notified with “sufficient time to cure during the three-day post-election period.”

“Every Georgian should have the right to cast their vote and make sure it counts,” Nikema Williams, DPG chair, said in a statement about the lawsuit. “Our elections need clear and fair standards to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that no community is unfairly targeted. Georgia voters deserve nothing less.”

This is the second lawsuit targeting Georgia this month related to voting issues in the state.

On Nov. 1, a group including the DNC, DCCC, DSCC, and DPG sued the state over the order candidates are listed on the ballot. In Georgia, all Republicans running for any office — local, state, or federal — are listed first on the ballot because the governor is a Republican. A similar lawsuit in Florida cited evidence showing the candidate listed first can boost their vote total by as much as 5.4 percentage points. The lawsuit argues that the order of candidates should be randomized to make the election more fair.

Georgia’s current governor, Brian Kemp, faced numerous allegations of voter suppression attempts in his 2018 election. Kemp won a narrow victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Georgia could be a battleground state in the 2020 presidential election, and voters will head to the polls for two Senate races that could determine which party controls that chamber, in addition to House races and elections for state and local officials.

The lawsuits are an attempt by Democrats to ensure “every voter has the right to cast their ballot knowing it will be counted, and counted fairly,” DCCC Chair Cherri Bustos said in a statement about the Wednesday lawsuit.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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