The lawsuit initiates an investigation into absentee voting
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an afternoon update on Georgia’s primary election at the Election Command Center in Atlanta, Georgia, May 24, 2022.
Alyssa Pointer | Reuters
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Georgia’s secretary of state opened an investigation Monday into the failure of the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration to mail more than 1,000 absentee ballots, after two civil rights groups filed a lawsuit over the situation.
Within hours of the investigation being announced, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit told NBC News that Cobb County had agreed to extend the absentee ballot deadline to Nov. 14.
The investigation was announced a day before Election Day, when one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, all of the state’s congressional districts and the governor’s office are up for grabs.
In the Senate race, polls show a statistical deadlock between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and former football star Herschel Walker, who is the Republican nominee. The contest is one of several that will decide which party controls the Senate.
In a statement, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office called the undelivered ballots “unacceptable.”
“We have launched an investigation and will refer the matter to the State Election Committee to determine the appropriate consequences,” the office announced.
Raffensperger, who is the state’s top elections official, is one of the defendants in the lawsuit, along with officials from the Cobb County Board and the state Board of Elections.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit Sunday in county Superior Court on behalf of four Cobb County voters.
The lawsuit alleges that the Cobb County Board of Elections failed to timely mail absentee ballots to all voters whose applications for such ballots were accepted.
“Cobb’s board failed to timely mail absentee ballots, for example, to approximately 1,036 voters whose absentee ballot applications were marked as issued on Oct. 13, 2022, and Oct. 22, 2022,” according to the lawsuit filed Sunday.
“It is expected that ballots marked as issued on other dates were also not processed or mailed in a timely manner,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that without immediate action by the judges, “hundreds of Cobb County voters are on the verge of being disenfranchised.”
The lawsuit asked the judge to order the election board to send absentee ballots overnight to voters who have not yet sent those ballots overnight and to extend the deadline for receipt of all absentee ballots in the class of voters covered by the lawsuit.
“Absent relief, these voters will likely be unable to participate in the November 8, 2022 general election despite properly registering to vote, requesting their absentee ballot by the absentee ballot application deadline, and frequently contacting Kobov themselves. board multiple times to find out about the status of their absentee ballot request,” the lawsuit states.
The Cobb County Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Saturday, the board issued a statement saying she opened an investigation into the ballots after some residents reported not receiving them.
Director of Elections and Registration Janine Eveler blamed the situation on what it said was “human error, as new staff did not follow procedures for two days to ensure ballots were mailed.”
Eveler told the board, “I’m sorry this office let these voters down.”
“Many of the staff who are absent have been working an average of 80 or more hours a week and are exhausted,” she said. “However, that is no excuse for such a critical error.”
The board said “elections staff overnight mailed absentee ballots to 83 out-of-state addresses and included prepaid overnight return envelopes.”
“They have already voted overnight for 194 residents of that group who requested to vote,” the announcement states. “Records show that another 271 residents of that group have canceled their voting request and voted during the previous vote. The remaining 498 identified residents are being urged to vote in person on Election Day.”
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