Elections Coordinator, Shantell Black (left) and Elections Deputy Director, Kristi Royston open and scan absentee ballots on Wednesday morning, Nov. 7, 2018 at the Voter Registration and Elections Office at 455 Grayson Hwy, in Lawrenceville. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Lawsuit seeks to prevent Georgia absentee ballot rejections

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday asked a judge to require quick notification to Georgia voters when their absentee ballots are rejected, giving them time to correct problems and have their votes counted.

The lawsuit, filed by the Democratic Party, said voters often aren’t told about mismatched or missing signatures on their absentee ballots until it’s too late.

“Every Georgian should have the right to cast their vote and make sure it counts,” said Nikema Williams, chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Our elections need clear and fair standards to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that no community is unfairly targeted.”

Election officials threw out 8,157 absentee ballots in last November’s election, about 3% of all absentee ballots returned by mail. Many of those rejections occurred in Gwinnett County, which imposed strict standards for accepting absentee ballots and rejected 1,733 of them.

The back of the absentee ballot envelope used in Gwinnett County in 2018 is "cramped and difficult for voters to read and understand," according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

State law requires election officials to “promptly notify” voters of problems with their signatures, but some voters who mailed their ballots near Election Day weren’t informed in time to submit a revised provisional ballot along with identification information. Voters have three days after Election Day to correct issues with an absentee ballot, according to a new state law.

Election officials should notify voters of missing signatures by phone, email or text messages within one day after receiving their absentee ballots, according to the lawsuit by the Democratic Party of Georgia, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The lawsuit also wants Gwinnett to change the design on its absentee ballot envelopes, which included small type.

Gwinnett officials declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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