Republican lawsuit would limit use of ballot drop boxes in Georgia

The Republican Party has filed a lawsuit seeking to curtail the use of absentee ballot drop boxes across Georgia ahead of the January runoff election.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, the Republican National Committee and the Georgia Republican Party seek to allow voters to return ballots at drop boxes only during normal business hours, not 24 hours a day. Among other things, the lawsuit also seeks greater access for party monitors to observe vote counting and related activities in the Jan. 5 runoff that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office encouraged voters to use the drop boxes in the June primary and November general elections amid the pandemic and concerns that the U.S. Postal Service would not deliver ballots on time. A record 1.3 million people cast absentee ballots in the November election, and more than 1 million people have already requested absentee ballots for the runoff election.

“(Republican Chairman) David Shafer and the Georgia GOP need to stop passing the buck for failing to deliver Georgia for (President Donald) Trump and actually focus on getting out the vote in January,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in a statement about the lawsuit.

It’s the latest lawsuit that alleges illegal activity in the November election in Georgia. The other recent lawsuits have sought to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in Georgia.

The new lawsuit does not seek to overturn that election. Instead, it looks ahead to the January runoff.

Last spring the State Election Board approved a rule that allows counties to collect ballots at drop boxes and requires those ballots to be monitored by video 24 hours a day. The board adopted the rule as part of a strategy to encourage absentee voting to limit human contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit contends that state law does not allow counties to collect ballots at drop boxes outside the normal business hours of election offices. It seeks to limit collection at the drop boxes to those hours and seeks real-time or near real-time access to video surveillance footage of all drop boxes in the state.

The lawsuit also contains numerous sworn statements from Republican poll monitors who say they were denied the opportunity to fully observe vote counting and related activities in various counties on Election Day and in the days that followed. Among other things, it seeks a court order allowing poll monitors to more closely watch such activities and better notification of the time and place of that work.

“The secretary of state’s office has repeatedly instructed county elections officials to ensure access for observers,” said Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state. “We have also made it clear that absentee ballot drop boxes need to be monitored 24/7.”