Federal judge extends Georgia deadline to return absentee ballots

The secretary of state’s office immediately planned to appeal the ruling.

“It is a bad idea to end the absentee ballot receipt deadline, which requires election officials to complete their required post-election tasks in a timeline that is required by law,” Deputy Secretary Jordan Fuchs said.

The lawsuit, by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group, asked the court to intervene to prevent voter disengagement during the presidential election.

US District Judge Eleanor Ross.

US District Judge Eleanor Ross.

More voters are relying on absentee ballots during the coronovirus epidemic to avoid the potential health risk of human contact at polling places. Nearly half of all voters in Georgia’s June 9 primary used absentee mail ballots.

More than 5 million Georgia voters are expected to run in the November election, with many likely to vote absentee again. Georgia law has allowed any registered voter to request absentee voting since 2005 without providing an excuse.

“As we take care of each other through an epidemic of historical proportions, we need to make sure that every vote counts,” said Ness Uphot, executive director of the New Georgia Project. “This is a solution to a problem that we have been seeing for some time. This is a good day for Georgia and a good day for democracy. “

In every election, absentee ballots are dropped in Georgia because they arrive too late. Even though the ballots were mailed well before Election Day, the US Postal Service did not always deliver them on time, a problem arose due to a possible mail meltdown this year.

In this year’s primary, election officials disqualified at least 8,495 absentee ballots because they were received late according to state election data. Absent less than 1% of all ballot papers.

The number of ballots received after Election Day is expected to increase in November. Lawyers for the New Georgia Project argued in court that 60,000 ballots could be delayed in the general election.

Georgia’s Democratic Party called the ruling “a major victory for Georgia voters.”

“All Georgians deserve to have their voice heard, and amidst a global epidemic, making democracy and early voting options as accessible as possible is the responsibility of our democracy,” said Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Georgia lawyers warned that delaying absentee deadlines could lead to chaos as election results hang in the balance. Election officials need to quickly count ballots and verify that absentee ballots will actually be postmarked by November 3rd.

State law requires 17 days after an election to certify election results by 20 November.

“The court notes that it is reluctant to interfere with Georgia’s statutory election machinery. However, where the risk of dissatisfaction is very good, as is the case here, narrowly ordered injunctive relief is appropriate, ”Ross wrote.

Ross wrote that Georgia election officials have already shown that they are capable of processing absentee ballots received after Election Day. State law requires election officials to count absentee ballots from foreign and military voters when they are received within three days of the election.

Georgia joined 18 other states that accept absentee ballots after Election Day if they are already marked according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ross denied other changes sought in the lawsuit, including free ballot mailings, quick notification of absentee application deficiencies, automatic mailing of absentee ballots to all voters, and ballot collections by third-party organizations.

Election officials are urging Georgians to vote early to avoid lines and other problems.

The US Postal Service has stated that mail delivery delays can catch absentee ballots. Voters should mail their completed ballots at least one week before Election Day on October 27, according to the USPS letter to US Secretary of State Brad Raffensper.

Georgia voters can also cast absentee ballots without relying on the Postal Service. Many counties have installed drop boxes, where voters can submit their ballots until polling stops on election day.

Ballotrequest through a website created by the office of Rottensperger to cast voter absentee ballots. You can request absentee ballots at sos.ga.gov. Absentee ballots will then be mailed in late September.

How to vote absentee in Georgia

Any registered voter in Georgia may request absentee voting without explanation.

Voters can order absentee ballots online on the ballot. They can fill out and mail a paper absentee ballot request form to the county election offices.

Election officials will start mailing absentee ballots to voters around 18 September. State law prohibits mailing of absentee ballots 49 days before Election Day.

Voters can then mail their absentee ballots or return them to the drop boxes installed in multiple counties.