As it turns out, voting rights activists were right when they warned Georgia’s GOP legislators against putting undue pressure on the state’s election systems all to disenfranchise communities of color. Now an investigation in Georgia’s Cobb County has found 1,046 requested absentee ballots were never mailed in what elections officials characterize as human error enabled by the restrictive voting rights legislation rushed through the state legislature last year.
Cobb County Elections and Registrations Director Janine Eveler said in a statement to the Board of Elections and Registration posted on the county website Saturday that the failure to send the ballots is a result of “human error, with new staff not following procedures on two days to ensure ballots were mailed.“
“I am sorry that this office let these voters down,” Eveler said. “Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted. Still, that is no excuse for such a critical error.”
Apologies aside, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia filed a lawsuit to counteract as much of the GOP damage as the nonprofit could.
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Rahul Garabadu, the ACLU of Georgia’s senior voting rights attorney, said in an ACLU of Georgia news release that the delayed action from Board of Election officials is absolutely tied to the voting rights restrictions.
“There is a direct correlation between the state’s sweeping anti-voter law, S.B. 202, and Cobb County’s failure to get over a thousand registered voters their absentee ballots,” Garabadu said. “The anti-voter law put tremendous pressure on elections officials to accomplish a number of responsibilities under a very tight deadline, and in Cobb County, that pressure has resulted in a huge error and hundreds of voters at risk of being disenfranchised.
“We are suing to make sure all Cobb County voters are able to have their voices heard, and we look forward to the day when the state partners with counties to make voting easier, not harder, for all Georgians.”
The state ACLU explained in its news release:
Prior to S.B. 202, the state’s anti-voter law passed after the 2020 election, voters could request an absentee ballot 180 days before an election and the county could mail out the ballots 49 days before an election. S.B. 202 slashed those numbers by about half to 78 and 29 days, respectively. These shortened windows have unnecessarily burdened elections officials and absentee voters.
Through Cobb County’s “last call” absentee ballot return program, voters can submit ballots in person at seven libraries throughout the county on Monday. They can also submit absentee ballots at the Cobb County’s main elections office in Marietta on Election Day. Absentee voters who did not receive their ballots can also vote in person at their designated precinct on Election Day.
Cobb Board of Elections Chair Tori Silas seemed to support the rationale laid out by the ACLU of Georgia. “I am very disappointed that we have placed these voters in a position where they may not have an opportunity to cast their ballots in this general election,” Silas said on the county website. “While human error was clearly a factor, I believe reduced time frames for the receipt of requests for and processing of absentee ballot provided under SB202, as well as the turnover in the Elections office, are also significant factors.”
“With only three days until election day, we are constrained in what we can do,” Silas continued. “That being the case, we are taking every possible step, notwithstanding those constraints, to ensure these voters have an opportunity to cast their ballots. Following this election, I will join other members of the board of elections to oversee a review of the absentee ballot process and work with Ms. Eveler and her staff to improve the county’s absentee ballot process to reduce the likelihood of this type of error occurring in the future.”
The county said:
“Elections staff overnighted absentee ballots to 83 out-of-state addresses and included pre-paid overnight return envelopes” They had already overnighted ballots to 194 residents from that group who had requested ballots. Records show another 271 residents in that group had canceled their ballot request and voted during advance voting. “The remaining 498 residents identified are urged to vote in person on election day.”
Cobb Elections officials also promised to try to contact the impacted voters by email or phone and direct them to their Election Day polling place.
The corrective actions spelled out by the county are happening in the context of a divisive gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. This is Abrams’ second time facing Kemp, who in 2018 bested her by fewer than 55,000 votes when he was secretary of state. During his tenure in that position, Georgia was riddled with allegations of vote suppression, so much so they inspired Abrams’ work with the New Georgia Project nonprofit to register an estimated 800,000 new voters, mostly people of color and young people often overlooked in the state.
Her name trended when President Joe Biden’s victory was declared in Georgia, flipping a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992. If Abrams wins in the gubernatorial race, she will be the first Black woman to serve as governor in Georgia.
RELATED STORY: Stacey Abrams makes Brian Kemp eat every one of his horrible policy decisions in final debate
We will not let extremism win in Georgia. Thank you, Secretary @HillaryClinton for your support. pic.twitter.com/I9F6H71tWX
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) November 7, 2022
On The Brief podcast we discuss what the polls are saying—and what the polls cannot predict. The traditional and right-wing narrative continues to champion polling that downplays Democratic candidates’ successes, while ignoring polling (including their own, in some cases) that flies in the face of that narrative. Either way, it does not change the fact that you need to get out and vote! And after you vote, make sure to encourage others to get out and vote—especially those younger folks in your life.
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