ACLU and SPLC File Emergency Litigation to Ensure Cobb County Residents Can Vote Absentee After Local Board of Elections Fails to Send Over 1,000 Ballots
ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit today seeking emergency relief so that hundreds of Cobb County absentee voters will have enough time to cast their votes, after county officials failed to send the ballots in violation of Georgia law.
The lawsuit seeks to send ballots overnight to hundreds of voters who still need their absentee ballots and move the deadline from 7 p.m. on Election Day to November 14, which is the same deadline for absentee voters in the military and overseas.
Under state law, Board of Election officials must send out absentee ballots within three business days of processing an application, but Cobb County elections officials failed to send requested absentee ballots to more than a thousand voters who requested them weeks ago. State data shows that up to 250 of the affected absentee voters have voted in person, which still leaves hundreds of voters in need of the absentee ballots they requested. Days out from Election Day, this large group of voters who need an absentee ballot still have not received one.
“There is a direct correlation between the state’s sweeping anti-voter law, S.B. 202, and Cobb County’s failure to get over a thousand registered voters their absentee ballots,” said Rahul Garabadu, the ACLU of Georgia’s senior voting rights attorney. “The anti-voter law put tremendous pressure on elections officials to accomplish a number of responsibilities under a very tight deadline, and in Cobb County, that pressure has resulted in a huge error and hundreds of voters at risk of being disenfranchised. We are suing to make sure all Cobb County voters are able to have their voices heard, and we look forward to the day when the state partners with counties to make voting easier, not harder, for all Georgians.”
“Hundreds of eligible Cobb County voters did everything right and yet find themselves on the brink of total disenfranchisement because they were never mailed their absentee ballots, as is required under Georgia law. Even Cobb County has acknowledged they made a ‘critical error’ and ‘let these voters down.’ Only this court can right the wrong done to these hundreds of voters and ensure that they are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote in this November election,” said Jonathan Topaz, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“The deadline for absentee ballot returns must be moved to November 14. Cobb County residents should not be stripped of their vote and their voice in government due to their ballots being mailed out late,” said Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the SPLC. “This demonstrates why states should increase voting access, rather than creating barriers and burdening election workers through laws like S.B. 202.”
Prior to S.B. 202, the state’s anti-voter law passed after the 2020 election, voters could request an absentee ballot 180 days before an election and the county could mail out the ballots 49 days before an election. S.B. 202 slashed those numbers by about half to 78 and 29 days, respectively. These shortened windows have unnecessarily burdened elections officials and absentee voters.
Through Cobb County’s “last call” absentee ballot return program, voters can submit ballots in person at seven libraries throughout the county on Monday. They can also submit absentee ballots at the Cobb County’s main elections office in Marietta on Election Day. Absentee voters who did not receive their ballots can also vote in person at their designated precinct on Election Day.
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