What Caused Georgia to Change its Election Laws?

In November, 2019, the Democratic Party of Georgia (“The Party”) filed suit against nine officials having responsibilities for administering state election laws.  Background for the suit was as follows. 

“In the mid-term election of 2018 Georgia voters filed “over 281,000 applications for absentee voting.  The total number of absentee ballots issued in that election — nearly 284,393 – was greater than the number of applications by approximately 3,393 absentee ballots; leaving some question of how that discrepancy arose.  Of the total absentee ballots cast for the same election, County Election Officials rejected 454 ballots for the entire State for such causes as…missing or inaccurate oath information [and] including missing and mismatched signatures.  One county – Gwinnett – rejected far more absentee ballots, 117, for missing or mismatched signatures than any other county.”  

A rejected ballot requires notice to be given to the voter within three days from the date the Registrar of the county declared the as rejectable.  The elector then has until the third day after the Election Date to cure the rejected ballot; otherwise it will not be tallied.  

The Party’s suit, filed in Federal District Court in November, 2019 alleges that because the ballot used for Gwinnett County was different from that used in all other counties by reason of its requiring both English and Spanish that Gwinnett had more rejected ballots.  Also alleged is that when a ballot was rejected, the required notice to the voter was less effective than in other counties.  The Party did not challenge that notice was given within three days, which is what the law requires.  The Party’s reasoning appeared to be based entirely upon the thesis that since Gwinnett County’s voter rejection rate was disparate from the rest of the state; it must have been caused by disparate administration compared to other counties.  State law requires that “notice to cure“ is required to be filed in the county in writing and secured for two years.  The Party made no remark or effort to examine the documents.  The Party further argues, “Gwinnett County Election officials under administration of the State Board of Elections, of which Secretary of State Raffensperger was Chairman, did not respond to electors in Gwinnett as quickly as other counties did, but without any allegation that Gwinnett’s response was lengthier than the law allows.”  

The above statement was the basis for the Democratic Party of Georgia’s suit – filed as, Democratic Party of Georgia v. Raffensperger in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.  The suit sought “Injunctive and Declaratory Relief.”  Defendants were Secretary of State and Chairman Raffensperger and five member Georgia State Board of Elections and five members of the Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections, each in their respective capacities and not individually.  The District Court granted relief to plaintiffs, and thereafter Secretary of State Raffensperger agreed to a Settlement granting statewide change to the following election law requirements, first effective for the November 3, 2020 presidential election; 

1.    State law requires absentee ballots to be processed beginning on Election Day; the settlement agreement moved the beginning date to three weeks prior to Election Day.  

2.    A single registrar or clerk was before the Settlement required to look at the secrecy sleeve containing the signature to the oath required of the elector and confirm the signature to the voter registration file and if missing or other reason for rejection to write “rejected” on the sleeve and the reason therefor.  The compromise added two more individuals to review the findings, and only if all three were in agreement to add their names to the rejection of the vote.  The state law remained unchanged. 

3.    The Georgia State Legislature has never ratified the material changes to State Election statutes granted by Raffensperger to the Democratic Party of George, and the relevant statutes compromised by the Settlement Agreement do not include a severability clauses.  This makes the changes unenforceable.  (Furthermore, the compromise applied to the entire state, which is beyond the scope of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Civil Action.) 

The preceding is what informed the General Assembly of the State of Georgia to make a complete review of Georgia’s election laws.  On March 28, 2021 the new law was signed and becomes effective on July 1, 2021.  

Publiustoo.com                                                                                             April 23, 2021