Groups challenge another Georgia voting rule in court

Voting rights advocates have filed another lawsuit challenging Georgia election rules, this time seeking to invalidate the state’s requirement that voters use a “pen and ink” signature on absentee ballot applications. (File photo by Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Voting rights advocates have filed another lawsuit challenging Georgia election rules, this time seeking to invalidate the state’s requirement that voters use a “pen and ink” signature on absentee ballot applications. (File photo by Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Voting rights advocates filed another lawsuit Monday challenging Georgia’s election rules and laws, this time seeking to invalidate the state’s requirement that voters use a “pen and ink” signature on absentee ballot applications.

In the fall, the State Election Board approved rules that require voters to print out absentee ballot application forms, sign them by hand and return them. In 2020, voters were able to apply for ballots online without filling out paper forms.

The change was mandated by Georgia’s new election law, which made sweeping changes to the state’s voting rules.

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Three groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying the new “wet signature” requirement violates provisions of the Civil Rights Act that prohibit election officials from denying people the right to vote because of minor errors in an application.

In announcing the lawsuit, the groups said the new signature requirement “unfairly limits ballot access for those who do not have the resources, like printers, to complete applications under the new restrictions.”

“The requirement of a ‘wet’ signature on an absentee ballot application simply creates a pretext to unfairly disqualify voters, particularly Black and brown voters, from their constitutional right to vote,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, one of the groups filing the lawsuit. “This rule is yet another attempt by the Georgia Legislature to suppress voting rights.”

The other groups joining the lawsuit are the Georgia Alliance for Retired Americans and Vote.org.

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In a statement issued late Monday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the lawsuit would fail.

“It never ceases to amaze me the extent liberal groups will bend and twist to undo commonsense election security measures,” Raffensperger said. “They tried to get rid of signature requirements before and failed, and they’ll fail again here.”

Republicans in the General Assembly approved new voting rules last year after former President Donald Trump made false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. The law restricted the use of ballot drop boxes, imposed new identification requirements and made numerous other changes.

The law has prompted numerous lawsuits that say it violates various voting rights protections. The law’s supporters say it improves election security while still making it easy to vote — especially in comparison to many other states.