Voting in the midterm elections concluded a week ago at this point, but in many locales around the country, they’re far from over. In Georgia, for instance, there’s continuing tumult over what to be done about absentee ballots rejected for what some fear are arbitrary reasons — and this Tuesday, just hours ahead of a state deadline for counties to certify their election results, a federal judge ruled in favor of those concerned with voting rights in the situation.
U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that absentee ballots in Gwinnett County must be counted even if they don’t contain an accurate birth date for the voter, explaining that the county violated the Voting Rights Act in rejecting them in the first place. The ruling supports previous guidance from interim Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden, who’d pushed county elections officials to count absentee ballots even if the birth date is missing or incorrect as long as the voter’s identity can be verified.
Federal judge orders Gwinnett County to count absentee ballots where voters omitted their birth year. Requiring a voter to provide their birth year on an absentee ballot is not “material” to assessing their qualifications as an absentee voter https://t.co/KC04sG5wLg pic.twitter.com/xYAWhipo4E
— Sam Levine (@srl) November 13, 2018
The demands could impact races in Georgia, including the one to represent the state’s 7th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Rob Woodall led Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by roughly 900 votes going into Tuesday’s proceedings — and after the county accepted some 2,100 provisional ballots on Tuesday, the margin narrowed to roughly 500 votes.
Besides the provisional ballots, there were an apparent roughly 1,000 rejected absentee ballots in the race, which could also have an impact. 300 of those seem to have been rejected for birth date reasons and are poised to be counted. The Upshot’s Nate Cohn called the court order specifically covering the absentee ballots the “best Dem shot at a 40th seat,” adding to Democrats’ already held majority in the House, explaining that the potentially lost votes are expected to have a massive Democrat lean.
At a Tuesday afternoon election authorities meeting, Gwinnett County — which is outside Atlanta — announced they’d be pushing off certification of their vote totals to Thursday to give them time to evaluate the rejected absentee ballots.
Local elections officials have been in the spotlight before, subject, for instance, to a previously reported order for more careful handling of absentee ballots when elections authorities claimed there to be a signature mismatch between the ballot itself and records. A federal judge demanded that counties notify voters of their concern and allow them a chance to prove their identity instead of simply throwing out their vote.
These issues have a broader relevance besides the Georgia Congressional race in question, with the state’s governor’s race remaining hotly contested. More broadly, a judge ordered a review of some 27,000 uncounted provisional ballots in Georgia this week. Democrat Stacey Abrams would need to pick up tens of thousands of votes from across the state to force a runoff election under state law. She’d previously sued to have rejected absentee and provisional ballots counted, and to have the deadline for counties to certify their election results extended to Wednesday.
She’s not the only one fighting for voting rights; in Florida, three statewide races went to a recount this past weekend, and Republicans there have sued county elections officials over Democrat supporting ballots that have come in late. There remains no evidence of fraud, though.
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