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Georgia voters given more time to correct absentee ballot problems

Fulton County employees continue to count mail-in ballots the day after the Georgia primary election at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. A spokesperson for Fulton County said that they will announce the final number of mail-in ballots on Wednesday. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Fulton County employees continue to count mail-in ballots the day after the Georgia primary election at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. A spokesperson for Fulton County said that they will announce the final number of mail-in ballots on Wednesday. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The Georgia secretary of state's office has extended the time for voters to correct signature discrepancies so their ballots can be counted.

The change came the same day the Democratic Party of Georgia filed a lawsuit arguing that many voters wouldn't be notified about problems with their ballots until it was too late to correct them.

Voters will have three business days after they’re notified of issues with their absentee ballots to fix problems, according to a bulletin from the secretary of state’s office. Voters can submit photo ID or other documentation to validate their identities.

The normal deadline to verify ballot discrepancies was three days after the June 9 election day, but many absentee ballots hadn’t yet been processed at that time. County election officials were backlogged after a record 1.1 million voters returned absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any absentee ballots that have been rejected should have a cure notice mailed (and emailed, if applicable) to the voter as soon as possible,” wrote State Elections Director Chris Harvey in a memo Friday to county election directors.

Through Sunday, county election officials across Georgia had rejected a total of 362 absentee ballots because of invalid or missing signatures. That's a much lower rate than in the 2018 general election, when 3% of absentee ballots were rejected.

“We’re happy that the secretary of state took action to correct his mistakes,” said Maggie Chambers, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Now he needs to make sure all affected voters are contacted as soon as possible and have the chance to cure their ballots.”

The deadline for counties to finalize results is Friday.