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• Georgia: Georgia Republicans have advanced a number of new voting restrictions this week, including bills passed in a state Senate subcommittee that would end no-excuse absentee voting for voters under age 75; require voter ID for absentee voting; restrict the use of mobile early voting buses; and give the GOP-run secretary of state's office more power to take over the operations of county election offices. State House Republicans also held a hearing with almost no advance notice almost immediately after introducing a sweeping bill that would adopt many more voting restrictions, including measures to:
Require voter ID for absentee voting;
Limit the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes;
Disqualify votes cast in the wrong precinct but in the right county;
Outright ban Sunday early voting, which is disproportionately used by Black voters and churches via "souls to the polls" voter drives after Sunday services;
Cut the number of remaining early voting hours of operation under the guise of standardization across counties;
Shorten the absentee voting period by barring ballots from being sent out more than four weeks before Election Day;
Ban election officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters after GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did so in the 2020 primary; and
Prohibit private organizations from donating funds to help officials administer elections after multiple groups donated tens of millions to do so in 2020.
Republicans have been considering a number of voting restrictions after losing high-profile elections in Georgia in the 2020 election cycle, but thanks to their earlier victory in the 2018 election for governor that was itself tainted by voter suppression, they have the ability to pass these restrictions into law.
• Georgia: Following major Democratic victories across the state, Republican legislators in Georgia have introduced several proposals that would restrict access to voting. The bills include measures to:
Repeal automatic voter registration through the state's drivers' licensing agency by replacing the current opt-out system with an opt-in system;
End no-excuse absentee voting (but only for voters under age 75);
Bar groups from distributing absentee ballot applications to voters
These bills come in addition to a separate proposal to require voter ID for absentee ballots, which the GOP exempted from their original voter ID law, at a time when elderly white Republicans disproportionately voted absentee. All of these proposals squarely take aim at voting methods or procedures that were on the whole largely favorable to Democrats in 2020.
Legislators also passed another proposal in committee with bipartisan support that will lengthen the deadline for counties to mail out absentee ballots from the Friday before Election Day to 10 days before Election Day, arguing that ballots sent out with just days ahead an election often don't have enough time to reach voters and be mailed back in time to count. A good government advocacy group that has been involved with voting law litigation in recent years criticized the bill for failing to make exceptions for people with last-minute emergencies that could preclude them from getting a ballot.
Lucy McBath won
Matt Lieberman lost
Jon Ossoff won
Ralph Warnock won
• Georgia: In a long-running case, a federal judge has declined to order Georgia officials, whose polling places have long been plagued with lengthy lines due to difficulties with electronic voting equipment, to use hand-marked paper ballots instead of new electronic voting machines. In a separate ruling, the same judge also declined to order that officials provide paper backup ballots equivalent to 40% of registered voters. Under state law, officials are required to maintain backups for only 10% of voters.
In a separate Democratic-backed lawsuit that was also seeking paper ballot and poll book backups among other measures to prevent long voting lines, a different federal judge has dismissed the case.
• Georgia: A federal court has rejected a lawsuit seeking to require Gwinnett County, a large and diverse county in the Atlanta suburbs. to send out absentee ballot applications in Spanish, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing even though the county is the lone one in the state subject to the Voting Rights Act's language-minority protections due to its large Latino minority.
• Georgia: Two Trump-appointed judges on the 11th Circuit Court of appeals have reversed a ruling over the dissent of the panel's lone Democratic appointee to reinstate a requirement that mail ballots be received by officials no later than Election Day, overturning the lower court's decision that had allowed ballots to count if postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward.
In a separate case, a federal district court judge has ruled that Georgia election officials must maintain paper backups of voter registration data at every polling site in order to prevent the sort of problems that plagued the state's June primary, when many electronic data systems failed and caused long lines in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Republicans asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling on Friday, too.
• Georgia: Republican commissioners in Gwinnett County, a populous and rapidly diversifying suburb of Atlanta, have voted along party lines to reject sending out applications for absentee mail ballots to all 600,000 of the county's registered voters, declining to join neighboring DeKalb County and its Democratic county commission's decision to mail applications to all voters for November.
• Georgia: A federal district court has sided with the Democratic plaintiffs and ruled that Georgia officials must count absentee mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received within three days afterward. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office announced that it would quickly appeal the ruling.
However, the court rejected several other requests by Democrats, including that the state prepay the postage on mail ballots, require timely notification of problems with absentee ballot applications, and allow third parties such as community groups to collect and submit ballots on behalf of voters. Democrats have not indicated if they will appeal that part of the ruling.
• Georgia: Federal district court Judge Amy Totenberg has rejected a request to issue a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit seeking to require Georgia to prepay the postage on absentee mail ballots, finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on their claim that requiring voters pay the cost of postage violates the 24th Amendment's ban on poll taxes. The case will still proceed on the merits and could ultimately reach a different outcome, but the plaintiffs now have limited time before the November elections.
Georgia: The DeKalb County Commission approved funding last month to send absentee ballot applications to the county's 523,000 registered voters, following a vote in favor by the county elections board. DeKalb, located in the Atlanta suburbs, is the fourth-largest county in the state and is home to a Black majority. It voted for Hillary Clinton by a 76-19 margin in 2016, making it Georgia's second-bluest county.
With DeKalb now moving forward, we're unveiling our newest spreadsheet that tracks which major counties in presidential battlegrounds or in states with key Senate races are proactively mailing ballot applications, 10 in all. Five swing states are sending applications statewide: Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, with Republican officials in Iowa and Wisconsin in particular taking action after large Democratic-leaning jurisdictions said they'd do so on their own.
• Georgia: Georgia Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent a repeat of the long voting lines that plagued the June primary by requiring a host of improvements, including: more polling places; emergency paper ballots in case Georgia's new electronic voting machines malfunction; paper backups of the voter registration rolls at polling places in case electronic poll books fail to work, as they did in in many cases in June; more training for poll workers; and more technicians to fix potential problems with voting equipment.
Georgia: A federal district court on Friday rejected a request to block the use of Georgia's new electronic voting machines, which experts have argued pose security vulnerabilities, and instead require hand-filled paper ballots. The judge noted that the plaintiffs had filed their motion before the pandemic prompted Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to postpone the March 24 primary to June 9 and therefore were unable to include evidence regarding the machines' use in an actual election.
However, the court did allow the plaintiffs to continue pressing their claims by buttressing their case with information from the June 9 election, which the plaintiffs have indicated they will do. Last week, the same judge largely rejected the GOP's motion to dismiss this case.
While the suit proceeds over the new voting machines, the plaintiffs have also filed a motion to require paper backups for the electronic poll books that are used to verify whether a voter at a particular polling place has voted already, citing widespread failures in the June primary as a major contributor to long voting lines.
• Georgia: The Republican-run commission that governs Cobb County, a populous county in the Atlanta suburbs, has rejected a request by the county's Board of Elections that it appropriate $256,000 to send absentee ballot applications to all voters for the November general election. Though the board's request was unanimous, Republicans hold a 4-to-1 majority on the commission, and its chair removed the item from the board's agenda for its most recent meeting earlier this week.
Georgia: Election officials in Cobb County, a populous county in the Atlanta suburbs, have asked the county's Board of Commissioners to appropriate funds so that they can send absentee ballot applications to all voters ahead of the November general election. Officials in nearby DeKalb County, another large jurisdiction in the Atlanta area, are considering a similar plan.
• Georgia: Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to require that Georgia loosen its restrictions on voting absentee by mail. Their suit asks the court to order that the state prepay the cost of postage, count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day so long as they arrive within seven days afterward, implement procedures to prevent ballots from being arbitrarily rejected for a supposedly non-matching signature on their ballot envelope, and allow third-party groups such as political campaigns or community groups to collect and submit completed absentee ballots.
• Governor-by-LD: Democrats have been making gains in Georgia over the last few years, and Stacey Abrams' narrow 50-49 loss to Republican Brian Kemp in the tainted 2018 election for governor suggests Team Blue has a path to win statewide. However, our new data, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, illustrates that the GOP's gerrymanders will make it difficult for Democrats to take control of either chamber of the state legislature this year. That in turn would ensure that Republicans control redistricting once again next year.
Democrats have gained ground over the last few years, thanks to the damage Donald Trump has done to his party's standing in the well-educated and diversifying Atlanta suburbs, an area that was still reliably red when the GOP initially redrew the maps after the 2010 census. The GOP's majority in the House dropped from 114-64 to 105-75 after the 2018 elections, and its edge in the Senate also nosed down from 37-19 to 35-21.
Still, while Georgia's political landscape has changed quite a bit in the last nine years, the legislative gerrymanders remain tough to overcome. While Kemp only narrowly outpaced Abrams statewide, he still took 102 of the state's 180 House seats versus just 78 for Abrams; in the Senate, he won 33 of 56 Senate districts, leaving Abrams with only 23. On a percentage basis, Kemp carried 57% of House seats and 59% of Senate seats despite winning just 50% statewide.
We have a lot more about Democrats' tough path to a majority in our post, as well as a look at a strange 2000 legislative runoff that illustrates just how far Democrats have come in the competitive Atlanta suburbs.
• Georgia: The ACLU has filed a lawsuit asking that Georgia election officials include postage-paid return envelopes both for absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots, arguing that the cost of postage amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax in the absence of safe in-person voting.
• Georgia: Georgia voters have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's decision to cancel a May 19 state Supreme Court election. Raffensperger canceled the election after GOP-appointed Justice Keith Blackwell announced he intends to resign in November, which is several weeks before his term was set to end. The move gave Republican Gov. Brian Kemp the power to appoint Blackwell's replacement and put off a potentially competitive election until 2022.
This lawsuit comes after a state court recently rejected a lawsuit brought by candidates from both parties who had intended to run in the now-canceled nonpartisan election. The plaintiffs in that case are appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservative justices.
• Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says his office will send absentee ballot application forms to all active Georgia voters for the state's May 19 presidential and downballot primary, a plan that officials had previously floated. Voters will still need to return the forms (which are not postage-paid) in order to receive a ballot.
• Georgia: Two lawsuits have been filed in state court to require an election that Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger canceled for a state Supreme Court seat. Justice Keith Blackwell, who was appointed to his post by former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, announced last month that he intended to resign in mid-November, six weeks before his term ends, rather than seek re-election. However, by calling off the planned May 19 election, Raffensperger's move would give Republican Gov. Brian Kemp the chance to appoint a replacement for Blackwell, who wouldn't have to go before voters until 2022.
Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former GOP state Rep. Beth Beskin each filed their separate lawsuits after being denied the chance to run for Blackwell's seat, arguing that Raffensperger violated the state constitution's guarantee that voters can select their Supreme Court justices. They also noted that Blackwell hasn't even resigned yet, saying that Kemp can't make an appointment while the seat is still occupied. If plaintiffs prevail, it's unclear if this litigation will be resolved quickly enough to reinstate a May election, or whether it would have to be delayed.
Notably, this is now the second Supreme Court election that Raffensperger has canceled and that Barrow and Beskin had intended to run in. The first was for the seat of former Democratic-appointed Justice Robert Benham, who unexpectedly announced late last year that he would resign in early March. No suits were filed in that instance, so Kemp will get the chance to fill that seat. Once he does, eight of the court's nine justices will have been selected by Republican governors.
• Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has settled a federal lawsuit brought by Democrats who were fighting Georgia's system of arbitrarily deciding which absentee ballots to reject over supposedly non-matching signatures, a process they've carried out without even notifying affected voters. Under the settlement, election officials must contact voters whose ballots are rejected within three days, or within one day if they are cast in the 11 days prior to an election, and give them a chance to fix the problem.
Absentee rejections were one of many issues that plagued the 2018 midterms, which were marred by voter suppression efforts by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who at the time was secretary of state. Statewide, 3% of absentee ballots were rejected, or more than 8,000 in total. But that rate varied widely by county: populous Democratic-leaning Gwinnett County in the Atlanta suburbs, for instance, had a rejection rate of more than 7%.
• Georgia: In a damning report laying bare Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's serious abuse of power, GOP state Attorney General Chris Carr's office announced there was no evidence that Democrats had hacked the state's voter registration system in the 2018 elections.
While serving as secretary of state, Kemp oversaw his own election for governor in 2018. Just days before the election, he leveled an incendiary charge that Democrats had improperly accessed the state's election infrastructure and placed his accusations prominently on the secretary of state's official website—where thousands of voters would see it when looking for voting information.
Of course, it was Kemp himself whose office had a history of election security failures, which included allegedly destroying evidence amid litigation regarding the exposure of six million sensitive voter records. Kemp appears to have made his hacking claim to misdirect blame for his incompetence, since he issued it just a day before ProPublica reported he had been warned about security vulnerabilities. Kemp's office subsequently worked to clandestinely fix some of the very security flaws that Kemp himself had refused to acknowledge even existed in the first place.
Kemp, who undertook many efforts to suppress black and Democratic voters through registration purges and other methods, had a clear-cut conflict of interest in overseeing his own election. There's no way, of course, to know whether his actions affected the outcome of the race. But by using his power and state resources to try to suppress voters in his own election, including his complete fabrication of serious charges of election interference against Democrats, Kemp's narrow victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams should be viewed as tainted and lacking the legitimacy of a free and fair election.
• Georgia: A state court judge has rejected an emergency request to require Georgia to switch to regular paper ballots instead of using its new voting machines. Election security advocates with the Coalition for Good Governance filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing that the large screens on the new machines violate voters' privacy because they make their choices visible to potentially prying eyes, but the judge disagreed. The plaintiffs haven't said whether they will appeal but said that the "issue is far from over."
This same group has also been waging a federal lawsuit seeking to stop Georgia from implementing these new voting machines, which print a paper ballot that relies on a barcode that the plaintiffs say prevents voters from being able to verify that their choices have been accurately recorded. A federal district court previously blocked Georgia from continuing to use its old paperless voting machines, but the case remains ongoing in the plaintiffs' effort to stop the new barcode voting machines from being used.
• Georgia: A federal court has rejected a challenge from voting rights advocates who sought to restore roughly 100,000 registrations of voters who had been removed from the rolls by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger simply because they had not voted in recent elections. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs, led by Democrat Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight, had failed to prove the purge violated the Constitution. Plaintiffs say they are considering an appeal.
Meanwhile, Democrats who are challenging Georgia's notification procedures concerning absentee ballot rejection in a separate case have amended their suit to also challenge the state's process for rejecting ballot signatures themselves.
The suit had originally sought to bar the state the state from rejecting any absentee ballots without notifying voters and giving them a chance to correct problems, such as their signature not matching the one on file. The additional claim seeks to block the state from using its current procedures for rejecting signatures as non-matching, arguing that they're arbitrarily enforced.