Judge dismisses GOP lawsuit to limit Georgia ballot drop box hours

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams dismissed a Republican Party lawsuit over ballot drop boxes following an online hearing Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams dismissed a Republican Party lawsuit over ballot drop boxes following an online hearing Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

A Fulton County judge dismissed a Republican Party lawsuit Thursday that tried to close absentee ballot drop boxes after normal business hours.

Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams’ ruling allows voters to continue using drop boxes 24 hours a day under video surveillance until polls close for the U.S. Senate runoffs Jan. 5. She rejected the case after an online court hearing.

The decision is the latest defeat for Republicans who have filed a series of lawsuits in the wake of the presidential election seeking to invalidate its results or change election procedures in the runoffs. None of these lawsuits has been successful in federal or state courts in Georgia.

The lawsuit from the Republican National Committee and Georgia Republican Party had argued that drop boxes should be limited to the same hours as county election offices.

But an attorney for the secretary of state’s office said drop boxes are allowed to remain open at all hours under a State Election Board rule approved earlier this year.

“The public has confidence that the rules of the game will not be altered to indulge the needs of a political party who is trying to benefit their particular candidates,” said Russ Willard, a senior assistant attorney general. “Plaintiffs want to poke at the bear and adjust the election machinery when we only have one week of early advance voting and one week of absentee voting left to go.”

An attorney for the Republican Party, Leah Zammit, said the case sought to restore public confidence in Georgia’s elections.

“The eyes of the nation are on Georgia, closely watching this process,” Zammit said. “This case is absolutely not about the expansion or dilution of voter rights. ... This case and this motion is about ensuring that individual counties, 159 within the state of Georgia, do not themselves alter the election rules.”

The lawsuit had also requested quick access to video surveillance footage of drop boxes and a court order allowing poll monitors to more closely watch elections.

Adams ruled that she doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case because of sovereign immunity protections that prevent governments from lawsuits.

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