Mon. Aug 2nd, 2021

Federal judge orders Georgia to extend deadline for residents to return absentee ballots

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Washington (CNN)A federal judge on Monday filed an order to extend the receipt deadline for absentee ballots in Georgia, mandating ballots postmarked by Election Day and delivered within three days must be counted.

US Northern District of Georgia Judge Eleanor Ross wrote in the order that these “extraordinary times” are cause for relief for voters. “The Court notes it is reluctant to interfere with Georgia’s statutory election machinery. However, where the risk of disenfranchisement is great, as is the case here, narrowly tailored injunctive relief is appropriate,” Ross wrote. “Consequently, the Court finds that extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline by three … business days is appropriate. The Court emphasizes that the equitable relief it provides is limited to the November 2020 election during these extraordinary times.”

    The suit, brought by The New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan voter registration group, aimed to change state laws associated with absentee ballot handling in the state, including the extension of the deadline for receipt of absentee ballots beyond 7 p.m. ET on November 3. Ross’ order says ballots postmarked by Election Day and delivered by 7 p.m. ET on November 6 must be counted. Read MoreThe order comes as the US Postal Service braces for an unprecedented amount of mailed ballots in the 2020 election due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will likely keep many voters fearful of the virus away from polling centers this fall. Democrats, who have been pushing for expanded access to mail-in and absentee voting, have worried that some ballots may not get to election officials in time given the sudden increase in demand for the Postal Service. While it granted a deadline extension for absentee ballots, Ross’ narrow order denied other changes sought in the lawsuit, including free ballot postage, quick notification of absentee application deficiencies, automatic mailing of absentee ballots to all voters and ballot collection by third-party organizations.

      Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs blasted the order as a “bad idea” and said the state plans to appeal it. “Extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline is a bad idea that will make it nearly impossible for election officials to complete their required post-election tasks in the timeline that is required by law. We plan to immediately appeal Judge Ross’s decision,” Fuchs said in a statement.


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