As the conclusion of the midterms continue to get closer, the ugly monster of voter suppression continues to rear its head across the United States. Georgia has proven a point of particular contention, where a federal judge has now handed down a victory for voting rights advocates in one aspect of the situation.
This week, Judge Leigh Martin May announced that in response to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union had previously filed over the issue, she’d be demanding that Georgia state authorities loosen their hold on the absentee ballot voting process.
Before the lawsuit began, authorities could throw out absentee ballots if they determined the signature on the document didn’t match that accompanying a voter’s initial registration. There was little formal standard, though, for determining whether a signature varied enough to warrant actual concern, which could have led to who knows how many absentee ballots getting unnecessarily thrown out as the midterms’ conclusion next month gets closer.
To address the situation, Judge May wants authorities to notify voters of an intent to reject their absentee ballot and give them an opportunity to appeal the decision. The state had argued that absentee voting was not constitutionally protected and therefore subject to whatever restrictions they could dream up, but May contested that assertion, pointing out that the procedure was used for the exercise of the constitutionally protected right to vote.
She explained in her ruling:
‘Having created an absentee voter regime through which qualified voters can exercise their fundamental right to vote, the state must now provide absentee voters with constitutionally adequate due process protection.’
ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin exclaimed:
‘This ruling protects the people of Georgia from those who seek to undermine their right to vote.’
The Georgia government itself had no immediate comment.
Separately from this situation, Georgia Secretary of State and GOP candidate to be the state’s next governor Brian Kemp has bemoaned the possibility of people exercising their right to vote.
He told a privately gathered group of donors that Democrat Stacey Abrams’ continued get out the vote effort “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
He’s faced scrutiny over some tangible actions he’s undertaken to curtail that right outside of the absentee ballot situation.
Just last year, his office struck tens of thousands of voters from the state’s registry over concerns their information on file no longer accurately represented them. Voters could also find themselves stripped of their registration if they hadn’t voted in a sufficient number of past elections.
If voters didn’t know they’d been purged from the system, it’s too late, since the deadline to register ahead of the general election in Georgia passed earlier this month.
A lot remains on the line heading into the midterms; if elected, Abrams would be the first black female governor in the entire United States. She would be reversing eight years of “leadership” from Republican Nathan Deal. She and Kemp have been neck and neck in polls throughout recent months, with the race unfolding in a national political environment broadly favorable for Democrats.
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