Majority POC Georgia County Hit With Lawsuit Over High Absentee Ballot Rejection Rate
Most of the rejections affected people of color.
Advocacy groups are suing a Georgia county after its officials rejected an alarming number of absentee ballots. Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is a co-defendant in the suits, along with the Gwinnett County Board of Elections.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered Gwinnett County rejected 390 ballots, which translates to 8.5 percent of submitted votes. The rejection rate across the state is less than 2 percent. Black, Asian and Latinx people were affected the most since people of color comprise more than 60 percent of Gwinnett County’s population. Most of the rejections were blamed on “insufficient oath information,” which means incorrectly recorded birthdates, signatures or mailing addresses.
The Gwinnett absentee ballot accepted and rejected counts and rejection rates by race as of the evening of 10/15 pic.twitter.com/COk5b6J6W9— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) October 16, 2018
The Coalition for Good Governance filed one of the suits while the American Civil Liberties Union filed the other on behalf of two advocacy groups. Both groups want the suburban Atlanta county to stop the rejections and give voters adequate time to correct the errors.
“The penalty for even the smallest clerical error or a question about the voter’s signature is disenfranchisement, with no meaningful opportunity to cure any perceived discrepancy,” The Coalition for Good Governance wrote in court papers.
Sophia Lakin, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, compared Georgia’s action to that of New Hampshire, another state accused of voter suppression.
“People should not be denied their right to vote because of penmanship, but that’s exactly what is happening in Georgia,” Lakin said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “With an election on the horizon, we should be protecting voters, not denying them the opportunity to ensure their vote is counted.”
This is Gwinnett's ballot return envelope. Gwinnett was recently covered by VRA Sec 203 language provisions, and is now required to provide bilingual election material. Note the line to provide a voter's birth year mashes English and Spanish in a way that is causing confusion pic.twitter.com/JfXNjosqVu— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) October 16, 2018
Gwinnett County claims it has done nothing wrong, and Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce released a statement criticizing the groups’ actions:
“We will not be bullied by out-of-state organizations or political operatives who want to generate headlines and advance a baseless narrative,” Broce said. “We will do our part to keep elections secure, accessible and fair in Georgia.”
This is the second lawsuit filed against Kemp for voter disenfranchisement this month. Last Thursday, several civil rights groups filed a lawsuit demanding Kemp’s office reinstate over 50,000 voters who were removed from Georgia’s voter rolls, reports Mother Jones. Over 70 percent of the people removed were Black even though Black people are only 32 percent of the state’s voters.
Despite this drama, requests for absentee ballots have surged in Georgia 131 percent higher than they were in 2014, reports WSB-TV.
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