Judge declines request to pause absentee ballot injunction in hotly contested Georgia race

UPDATE 2 — 11/8, 10:20 a.m. EST: Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp will resign as Georgia’s secretary of state on Thursday evening, according to the Associated Press.

With nearly all of the vote counted, Kemp leads Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, 50.3 percent to 48.7 percent.

 

UPDATE — 11/3, 9:11 a.m. EDT: A U.S. District Court judge in Georgia ruled Friday the state must allow newly registered voters to cast ballots whose legal status was questioned by Secretary Brian Kemp’s office.

Georgians who were flagged by the state over citizenship issues will be allowed to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, if they present documents at a polling location showing an “exact match” between personal information on registration forms and state or federal data.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling which blocked Georgia’s election authorities from throwing out absentee ballots on which a voter’s signature did not match with their registration form.

 

The race for governor in the state of Georgia made its way to the courts last week as a federal judge issued an injunction prohibiting the Secretary of State’s office from rejecting absentee ballots whose signatures do not match those on the voter registration form.

U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May’s injunction orders the state to inform local elections offices not to reject absentee ballots due to alleged signature mismatches. Instead, local officials are ordered to mark ballots as provisional and give voters a “pre-rejection notice” via first-class mail and email, when possible, as well as an opportunity to resolve the discrepancy.

The ruling came about as a result of two lawsuits filed against Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor. Both the ACLU and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Coalition for Good Governance have accused Kemp of engaging in voter suppression techniques.

Also weighing in was former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia native, who wrote a letter to Kemp asking him to step down as secretary of state and hand off oversight of the state’s elections to someone else.

In his letter dated Oct. 22, Carter wrote:

“In Georgia’s upcoming gubernatorial election, popular confidence is threatened not only by the undeniable racial discrimination of the past and the serious questions that the federal courts have raised about the security of Georgia’s voting machines, but also because you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate.”

Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic opponent, has also called on him to resign.

A statement released by Abrams’ spokeswoman, Abigail Collazo, read:

“As he has done for years, Brian Kemp is maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters — the majority of them people of color.”

Collazo pushed for Kemp to step down “so that Georgia voters can have confidence that their Secretary of State competently and impartially oversee this election.”

On Tuesday, Judge May refused to pause the injunction — a request made by Kemp’s legal team — stating to do so “would only cause confusion, as Secretary Kemp has already issued guidance in accordance with the injunction to county elections officials.”

“The Court finds that the public interest is best served by allowing qualified absentee voters to vote and have their votes counted.”

In response to the ruling Sean Young, legal director of Georgia’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said:

“We are pleased that the court has enforced the due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Today’s ruling is a victory for democracy and for every absentee voter in the state of Georgia.”

The latest polls show the two candidates within just one percentage point of each other.

Abrams, a former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader, leads Kemp 48.1 percent to 47.2 percent among likely voters, well within the 3.9 point margin on error in a Fox 5-Atlanta survey released Tuesday.  However, Kemp leads by 1.4 points according to the RealClearPolitics average of five public polls in October.

Stacey Abrams would be the first African-American woman in the nation elected to a gubernatorial seat.

 

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution] [The Hill] [CNN] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Yahoo News/AP]

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