ATLANTA, GEORGIA - Another voter rights lawsuit is in motion in Georgia, this one explicitly targeting mail-in ballots.
On Tuesday, the Coalition for Good Governance filed suit against secretary of state, and gubernatorial candidate, Brian Kemp, as well as each member of the state's Board of Elections and each member of Gwinnett County's board of elections.
The group of five voters suing the state say that an unacceptable volume of mail ballots have been deemed invalid due to minuscule discrepancies, such as an incorrectly placed signature on the envelope.
"Thousands of voters have been rejected by these unfair and unconstitutional practices in recent elections,” says Marilyn Marks, executive director of Coalition for Good Governance.
“We are asking the Court to intervene to stop these unjust actions in advance of the November election. Certain Georgia laws and policies prevent the counting of valid ballots cast by eligible voters merely trying to exercise their right to vote."
State voter registration reviews in Georgia are drawing widespread attention this election cycle. Around 53,000 people’s registration could be placed in limbo just weeks before the midterms due to the state's “exact match” practice.
The Campaign Legal Center and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law claim in a lawsuit aimed at Kemp’s office that Georgia’s “exact match” requirement violates not only the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but the Voter Rights Act, and the National Voter Registration Act. Currently, the state checks registration against official paperwork such as Social Security information, a driver’s license, or an address.
The groups say it unduly jeopardizes the registration of these people as voters prepare to cast a ballot for the November midterms.
Kemp's Opponent Chimes In
In the hotly contested race for governor, Kemp’s Democratic opponent, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, is calling for his resignation as the chief elections official, and says voters should "have confidence that their secretary of state (will) competently and impartially oversee this election."
In addition to this charge, she and the voters filing suit say "exact match" is aimed at minorities who would otherwise vote for Abrams.Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, says it "too disproportionately and negatively impact the ability of voting-eligible African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants.” Lang says that while the use of “exact match” doesn’t violate a law, it is overly restrictive.
"As secretary of state, you have discretion about the policy you put forward to enforce that law, and I have seen no evidence of any policy put in place by Secretary Kemp that would minimize who would get caught in this net,” said Lang.
Kemp hit back on Twitter, saying:
“The 53,000 Georgians on our 'pending' list can vote in the Nov. 6th election.” Provided they produce a valid ID. He also says that mail-in ballots will be counted. Kemp's office calls the accusation of disenfranchisement tantamount to a "publicity stunt.”
Georgia’s election is no stranger to controversy, whether it relates to casting a ballot, or the mechanism used to process the information.
Recently, lawyers representing yet another voter rights group that is suing Kemp pushed to block the use of the state’s electronic voting machines. The machines are considered to be one of the most vulnerable systems used in the United States. Plaintiffs argue that the AccuVote TS and AccuVote TSX risk voter information and election results in the midterm elections and beyond, and that Kemp’s office has been aware of it for years, but has done nothing.
The judge agreed with the assessment; however, she denied the injunction because it is too late to convert to paper ballots for the November midterms. Still, in a 45-page opinion, she wrote that the voting system must be changed and secured in time for the next election and that “further delay is not tolerable.”
David Cross, a lawyer handling the electronic voting case, says that it strikes his team as odd and suspicious that Kemp's legal team "never explained why he has taken no effort to address the current system that makes it susceptible to interference.”
“If you put that conduct together with the rejection of so many voter registrations for petty and irrelevant reasons, you really start to wonder whether this is an issue of incompetence or something more nefarious," he said.