Cobb faces 2nd state investigation into handling of absentee ballots

A Cobb County, Georgia, judge ruled people must have time to vote with their absentee ballots. (Natrice Miller/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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A Cobb County, Georgia, judge ruled people must have time to vote with their absentee ballots. (Natrice Miller/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: TNS

Georgia’s State Election Board met in an emergency session Saturday with its attorney after a judge ordered a later deadline for Cobb County absentee ballots in the runoff.

An announcement about a second investigation by the state board into the county’s handling of absentee ballots came after porn shuttered the public teleconference.

The board’s chairman, William Duffey, only got as far as saying that they were discussing the Friday ruling. In a statement released afterward, Duffey said he chose not to continue the broadcast of the meeting after “the showing of inappropriate visual images.”

No official action was taken by the board. “We will continue to monitor the lawsuit,” Duffey said. The lawsuit says the Cobb County Board of Elections allegedly failed to send out over 3,400 absentee ballots on time for the runoff election.

This investigation joins one that was already opened regarding the county’s failure to mail absentee ballots requested for the general election.

In the latest absentee ballots case, Superior Court Judge Kellie Hill made her ruling Friday in a lawsuit brought by Cobb County voters who may be receiving their absentee ballots too late to vote. Hill ordered Cobb to give the absentee voters more time. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger protested.

The disagreement centers around whether Cobb County met the legal deadline to send absentee voters their ballots. Cobb workers say they put the ballots in the mail in time, and it’s the fault of the holiday weekend that U.S. mail workers didn’t pick them up for delivery until Nov. 28.

Under the judge’s order, voters whose absentee ballot applications were received by the elections office on or before Nov. 26 will now have their ballot counted as long they get it postmarked by 7 p.m. Tuesday, the day of the runoff election, and as long as Cobb County receives it no later than Friday.

Raffensperger condemned that order. He said in a statement Friday night that “changing state law at the request of political activists on the eve of an election is a horrible idea,” and he urged Hill to reconsider.

Cobb County was also sued after failing to send out more than 1,000 absentee ballots in the November general election. In that case, a judge extended the deadline for the ballots to be returned, and the county sent most through express mail or hand-delivered them.

One of the attorneys representing the voters acknowledged that the state could conceivably try to get involved to try to appeal the judge’s order.

“Regardless, the strangest part about this is that the (State Election Board)’s involvement would come late, after a court has already granted relief to thousands of voters who are already expecting to exercise the court ordered remedy,” Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a written statement.

As for Saturday’s shortened public meeting, the State Election Board’s office did not immediately say how the Zoom meeting was breached.

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