Republicans keep top billing on Georgia ballots, judge rules

August 11, 2020 Atlanta: Voters at the machines on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at Magnolia Hall located at 1320 Monroe Drive NE in Atlanta. A heated race for Fulton County district attorney saw a light turnout at the polls on Tuesday, August 11, 2020. Incumbent Paul Howard faces his former chief deputy, Fani Willis, in a closely watched contest to become the county’s top prosecutor. Election officials said they learned lessons from the June 9 primary to avoid the kind of extreme lines that some voters encountered last time. Poll workers have been retrained. Technicians were on hand at every voting location in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. Voting machines were delivered well in advance of election day. Still, some voters experienced problems and long waits at the polls. Nearly 377,000 Georgians already voted in advance of election day, most of them casting absentee ballots. About 60% of early votes were absentee; the rest were cast in person during three weeks of early voting. With so many voters using absentee ballots, election results might be slow to come in Tuesday night. Absentee ballots will be counted if they’re received by county election officials before 7 p.m., but each ballot has to be fed through a scanner to be counted, a process that can take days. Election officials say it’s normal for absentee vote-counting to take some time. But that means close races might not be settled on election night. The winners of Tuesday’s runoffs will advance to the general election in November, when turnout is expected to break records and exceed 5 million voters. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
August 11, 2020 Atlanta: Voters at the machines on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at Magnolia Hall located at 1320 Monroe Drive NE in Atlanta. A heated race for Fulton County district attorney saw a light turnout at the polls on Tuesday, August 11, 2020. Incumbent Paul Howard faces his former chief deputy, Fani Willis, in a closely watched contest to become the county’s top prosecutor. Election officials said they learned lessons from the June 9 primary to avoid the kind of extreme lines that some voters encountered last time. Poll workers have been retrained. Technicians were on hand at every voting location in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. Voting machines were delivered well in advance of election day. Still, some voters experienced problems and long waits at the polls. Nearly 377,000 Georgians already voted in advance of election day, most of them casting absentee ballots. About 60% of early votes were absentee; the rest were cast in person during three weeks of early voting. With so many voters using absentee ballots, election results might be slow to come in Tuesday night. Absentee ballots will be counted if they’re received by county election officials before 7 p.m., but each ballot has to be fed through a scanner to be counted, a process that can take days. Election officials say it’s normal for absentee vote-counting to take some time. But that means close races might not be settled on election night. The winners of Tuesday’s runoffs will advance to the general election in November, when turnout is expected to break records and exceed 5 million voters. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Republican candidates, from President Donald Trump to state legislators, can continue to be listed ahead of Democrats on Georgia ballots, according to a federal judge’s ruling.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg denied an effort to overturn a Georgia law that requires candidates in the same party as the most recently elected governor to be listed first on the ballot in partisan general elections.

The plaintiffs in the case, including the Democratic National Committee, had argued that the law gave Republican candidates an unfair edge. Expert witnesses told the court that Republicans received a 4.2 percentage point advantage, on average, from being listed first on the ballot in Georgia elections since 2004.

But Totenberg ruled Thursday that she was bound by an April decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar ballot order case from Florida.

The 11th Circuit found that “alleged injury of vote dilution based on an average measure of partisan advantage is legally insufficient to establish standing to challenge the constitutionality of the ballot order statute,” Totenberg wrote.

Totenberg allowed the plaintiffs to amend their lawsuit with more specific allegations that they had been harmed.

Candidates in the governor’s political party have been listed first on Georgia general election ballots since 1964, when Democratic Gov. Carl Sanders was in office.

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